Plymouth Raiders travelled to the University of Worcester Arena on Friday night for coach Paul James and his assistant Danny Magee to face their former club the Worcester Wolves in the opening game of the 2018-19 BBL Championship season.
Both clubs are under new leadership this season, Paul James for the Raiders and former Worcester player Ty Shaw for the home side, and with 1300 Worcester fans behind the home side a tough game was going to be on the cards for the visitors.
Javis Howard opened the scoring before the hosts replied with a three pointer. Josh Wilcher put the Raiders up 3 – 5 which was followed by another Wolves basket to tie the game after three minutes. Both sides traded baskets throughout the first period, until Joonas Järveläinen hit a couple of three pointers, split by two free throws from Declan Soukup to give Raiders a 16 – 22 lead with a minute remaining. This went on to be Raiders largest lead of the game and didn’t last long as Worcester closed out the quarter with a free throw to cut the deficit to five after ten minutes.
An 11 – 0 run for the Wolves started the second period which was halted by a pair of free throws by Donte Nicholas. The Raiders tied the game at 31 – 31 half way through the quarter and both sides traded baskets for the next five minutes with both teams tied on 40 at the interval.
A 17 – 10 start to the second half for the home side saw them open their biggest lead of the game so far, 57 – 50, including nine points from Worcester’s Robert Crawford, all from downtown on his way to a game high 28 points. The Raiders closed the gap to two, 62 – 60 before the home side hit another three to hold a five point lead with ten minutes to play.
Raiders clawed back the score to 71 a piece after three minutes and held the lead by one, 76 – 77 with four minutes remaining. The home side hit eight un-answered points, ending with Crawford’s seventh three of the night forcing Coach James to call a time out. Raiders came out of the time out looking for an immediate reply but following a missed shot, Crawford hit his eighth and final three of the night to effectively kill the game. Wolves ran out the final minutes to take a 93 – 81 win in a score line that perhaps flattered the home side, considering how close the game was throughout.
Raiders were led by Nicholas on 22 points and was supported by Jamal Williams on 14, Järveläinen on 12 and Wilcher on 10. Crawford’s 28 included eight of 11 shooting from downtown, whilst Worcester as a team shot 60% with 15 from 25. Raiders now have a little over 36 hours rest following their return to Plymouth before they host the London Lions at Plymouth Pavilions on Sunday, 15:00 tip. Tickets for the game can be bought online from https://www.theticketstore.co.uk
Words by Paul Smith