BY: Manny Alvarez/JBA USA Beat Writer
Leicester, England – Normally, the saying goes that someone has to step up to the plate for their teammates.
But tonight, in an adversity type moment, several players stepped up in Team JBA USA 123-117 victory over the Loughborough Riders at the Morningside Arena on Thursday afternoon in Leicester, England.
The victory extends JBA USA (11-2) winning streak to 10 games.
JBA USA is playing their first game without LaMelo Ball, who left the ball club to attend and play basketball at Spire Academy in Ohio.
To make it more challenging, guard Je’rell Springer did not play due to a rib injury.
Despite being without two of their best players, new starting guard Jordan Ray stepped in and led JBA USA with 34 points and seven assists while LiAngelo Ball scored 30 points to also go with seven assists.
“This is what I do,” Ray said. “It’s basketball and at the end of the day you have to come out and hoop out. Melo being gone is definitely a game changer, but this wasn’t a tough win. We just have to play harder. It always the first one to 130. If anything, we hurt ourselves in this game, but we still got the W. We just have to come out ready for the next game and be stronger.”
The strong performance from Jordan Ray impressed his coaches and they know that he will take advantage of the new starting role.
“The sky’s the limit for that kid,” JBA USA coach Doyle Balthazar said. “He plays hard. I called him my little pitbull because he’s a tough guy and he takes tough shots in big moments. I’m very excited for him and can’t wait to see him progress.”
With Melo no longer on the team, Curtis Hollis stepped in to take a bigger role and scored 23 points. Deon Lyle and Calvin Brown also took in bigger roles as well for JBA USA. Lyle scored 13 points to go with six boards while Brown added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Melvin Davis led JBA USA with 14 rebounds, five blocks to go along with his seven points.
While Davis and Brown were in double digits in rebounds, JBA USA still struggled in the rebounding department, getting outrebounded 66 to 47 by the Riders.
“I’m always happy when we get a win,” Balthazar said. “We had some new roles tonight, so we went through a rough patch for a minute, but we figured it out and pulled off the win. We have to use what we have and we go with the next guy up. Brown and (Harrison) Rieger stepped up, they got the start tonight and they helped us out. We started out pretty good. We just have to step up a little better as a team.”
Tim Fava led Loughborough with 18 points as Naill Harris added 16 points and six boards.
Lucien Christofis led the Riders in rebounds with nine to go with his nine points. Reis Pinnock grabbed eight boards with seven points.
Unlike most of JBA USA opponents, the Riders didn’t turn the ball over as often, only turning the ball over 13 times to JBA USA eight. JBA USA stole the ball only nine times to the Riders five.
Kyle Jimenez scored 14 points, Yannis Panaretakis scored 13 points and Hosana Kitenge added 12 points for Loughborough.
Harrison Rieger scored four points in his first game as a starter for JBA USA, which will now look to extend their winning streak to 11 games and they head to Istanbul, Turkey to take on Yesilyurt SK at the Yesilyurt Sport Club Hall on Monday November, 10th. Game time is set for 8:00 am PST.