Plymouth Raiders and Cheshire Phoenix faced off against each other on Sunday at the Cheshire Oaks Arena. Both sides split their opening games on the season last week with Raiders losing in Worcester before putting on a fighting display in front of their home fans, beating London Lions. Cheshire also lost their first game on the road in Newcastle before defeating Worcester at home.
Raiders started with Josh Wilcher, Jamal Williams, Donte Nicholas, Javis Howard and big man Zak Wells for the third game running, and it was Wells who open the games scoring on the visitor’s first possession. Both sides traded baskets in the opening three minutes before former Raiders player Louis Sayers went three of three from downtown, and six points from Jimario Rivers forced coach Paul James to call a time out trailing 23 – 11. Three pointers from Howard and Joonas Järveläinen cut the deficit, but it was the home side who held a 25 – 17 first quarter lead.
Raiders clawed the score back to 33 – 33 with five and a half minutes remaining in the half making six of their nine shots forcing Cheshire to call a time out. Coming out of the time, strong play at both ends of the court from Denzel Ubiaro and seven points from Järveläinen saw the visitor’s edge in front by two. Declan Soukup was called for an unsportsmanlike foul but before the free throws were taken Coach James called a time out. Cheshire went one of two from the foul line before scoring from the inbound to regain the lead. A 9 – 4 run for the visitors finished the half with the Raiders holding a slender 47 – 51 point lead.
A quick start to the second half saw the scores tied at 55 in the opening minute before the Raiders again took the lead following a 12 – 4 run. Cheshire pulled the gap back to two with a little under two minutes remaining and tied the game before Wilcher closed the quarter out with a floating shot down the lane with a couple seconds remaining giving the Raiders a 69 – 71 lead with 10 minutes to play.
A time out for the Raiders after two easy baskets from the home side saw the scores tied at 73 to start the period. Raiders came out of the time out with Shawn Shelton scoring two after grabbing the offensive rebound off his own missed shot before Cheshire replied with a three. Nicholas scored to give the visitors the lead again before two more three points put Cheshire up 82 – 77 forcing Coach James to call another time out. A Ubiaro steal, dunk and assist on a Howard three brought the game back to two, but the home side stretched the lead to five with a couple minutes remaining after a couple a wayward shots from the Raiders. Sloppy offence from the visitors and easy baskets from the home side meant the Raiders weren’t able to cut the deficit and Cheshire ran out winners 94 – 88.
Nicholas led the scoring for the game with 33 and was supported by Järveläinen and Howard on 19 and 12 retrospectively. The home side had five players score double figures including Sayers, doing damage to his old club with 16 which included four threes. Ultimately a 26% shooting from downtown and 66% from the free throw line cost the Raiders in a game where they had 14 more attempts than the hosts.
Raiders return to the Pavilions next Sunday where the host Glasgow Rocks, 15:00 tip. Tickets for the game can be bought online from https://www.theticketstore.co.uk