Eric Robertson was the Riders’ hero as they completed a hat-trick of BBL Trophy successes with a tense victory at the Emirates Arena.
Guard Robertson’s three-pointer in the final minute of the fourth quarter finally killed off the Sharks’ stubborn resistance and sealed a 90-85 win with both sides having led as the final approached its conclusion.
The Riders were ahead by 17 points at one stage during the first half, but had to weather a concerted fightback during which Chris Alexander saw a three-point attempt which might have forced overtime stay agonisingly out.
Shane Walker top-scored with 16 points, but it was JR Holder who earned the MVP award with 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Sheffeld forward Rob Marsden said: “We showed incredible heart to fight back and put ourselves in a position to win.
“We can be proud of our performance but we’re gutted we couldn’t bring back the Trophy for our fans.”
The difference between the two teams in the first half was from behind the arc with Leicester shooting eight of 11 from 3-point range as Sheffield struggled at two of 11 and only finished up with four of 17.
It was a typically great team effort from the Riders with five players in double figures.
Holder believed Leicester’s on-court strength proved the difference.
He said: “It was a real up and down game – we had it early but they came back and applied a lot of pressure.
“We’ve been down in a lot of games and we always come together and were able to produce a big finish. You never know who is going to go off in these games because we have so many weapons on the court.”
Sheffield had lost all three meetings between the two teams in the Championship this season. But for long periods this contest was in the balance, and the Riders were left relieved at the end.
“I’m thrilled that we were able to get over the line,” said Leicester forward Andy Thomson. “The resilience we showed down the stretch typifies this team. Sheffield made a great run, but we never doubted that we would execute when it counted. Eric and Tyler made some great plays and we were able to get our stops defensively.
“For the majority of the week I wasn’t sure if I would be able to suit up at all. I’m grateful I got the opportunity to play and to contribute to the team’s success.”