The Plymouth Raiders out-foxed the Bristol Flyers Sunday, to punch their ticket into the BBL Cup quarter finals in dominant fashion, thrashing their Southwest Derby opponents 86-68.
Any attempt the Flyers made at the lead was shot down time and time again, as the city side got inside the heads of their visitors, and controlled all sectors of play.
Head coach Paul James was delighted to see his side beat such a strong outfit and was full of praise after the game. He said:
“This was a fantastic win for us against a good Bristol team who had the physiological advantage against us.
“We learnt from last week, we went away and did our homework and made some adjustments.
“We wanted to do our talking on the court, I feel the guys were great today, I thought our offence was very disciplined, we played with some composure and have shown this is what we can do, we’ve set the bar high now.”
Points off the paint proved crucial in the win with 50 of the sides 84 being netted from a region of the court the Raiders have struggled with, and James was happy to see the squad turning their play around, saying:
“It’s the one thing we haven’t been the strongest at this season, it’s something we’ve been working on, we had to get ball inside, and I think we did a good job of that tonight.”
From the outset, the Raiders were able to throw off the Flyers game plan and annoy them into bad play, and James was happy his side were able to do so,
“Look at the way they got towards the end, they weren’t very happy, we were putting points up on the board and forcing them to take tough shots, whereas last week they rebounded well, this week I thought we did a good job on the boards, finishing the job once we forced them into those shots.
“For us it was a complete performance tonight, there’s still a long way to go, but we’re heading to the next round, and we’re looking forward to that.”
The first taste of elimination ball of 2018 for the Raiders proved to be a competitive outing for both sides early, as a place in the quarter final was on the line.
Bristol came into the Pavilions flying high off the back of a strong start to the BBL season, winning four on the trot whilst dropping only one. The Southwest outfit also boasted a home win over the Raiders, winning by a commanding 10 points, nine days previous.
The Raiders themselves looked good under the pressure of an elimination matchup early on in the game, sinking the first four attempts at points from inside the arc. The side were also quick to contrast their success with a couple of penalties, possessions the Flyers lapped up.
Raiders players tried to get their noses ahead, but the Flyers clinical style and precision with the ball shone through whilst the side wasted no time putting points on the board of their own.
The Raiders did put up valiant defensive sets to try slowing play, but early on it was the Flyers who were winning the rebounds, flicking the ball outside for open attackers to put away easy three-pointers.
Despite the first quarter struggles, it was the Raiders who came out on top by the first buzzer, leading by four after a last second Denzel Ubiaro shot was awarded.
With the beginning of the second, the Raiders rebound game began to improve and the Flyers aggression was met with a wall of green jerseys which slowed the successful screen game.
At the other end, wayward shots were now routinely being mopped up by the big body of Zak Wells or driven into the paint by Joonas Jarvelainen. With the double-edged threat under the net, a steady flow of twos developed, pulling the Raiders out to a commanding 10-point lead.
With the lead change, the Flyers became frustrated as their style of play was robbed away from them. Struggling to adapt to the Raiders momentum, fouls quickly racked up in favour of the home side who secured their longest lead of the half with 12 after a 10-point run.
An offensive foul on Donte Nicholas was quickly followed by a defensive foul and an unsportsmanlike penalty on Devontavius Payne, which gifted the Flyers five points from six to crunch the lead. This coupled with a three-minute dry shooting spell brought the deficit down to five.
The Raiders managed to recover some of their momentum, though, ending the half ahead 44-38.
Although the first half was impressive, the Raiders couldn’t rest going into the third, and it was time to see if the young squad could run with a top of the table opponent, and from the outset, the Raiders wanted to prove themselves.
It took just 50 seconds for Flyers coach, Andreas Kapoulas, to call a panicked timeout in the second half, as a flurry of Raider shots put six points on the Flyers quickly, followed by a foul to go ahead 13.
Refusing to show the same level of frustration seen earlier in the matchup, the Flyers showed level heads to reply from their break in play, keeping the score within 10, but they could do little to stop Jarvelainen, who once again came off the bench to have an impact, sniping two three pointers, then three more from the foul line.
Chasing 14 points, play began to grow desperate for the derby rivals who began attempting rushed threes, instead of trying to continue their bullying inside. This rushed style carried over defensively too, allowing the Raiders further opportunities from the line, which was capitalised on to go even further afield at 18 points.
With two of the Flyers starting five running close to the sun with four personal fouls each, caution was needed to have any hope of turning a game that was quickly sliding away from the Bristol outfit. With a skeleton bench of three players, the Flyers couldn’t afford to drop anyone to foul-outs.
But, tempers flared up for the Flyers who cost themselves midway through the final quarter, as scrapping broke out under the Raiders hoop. A technical foul was called on both teams, and once the melee had been sorted, Raiders captain Zak Wells and Chris Taylor for the Flyers found themselves ejected in dismay. Despite losing their second player, the Raiders could still consider themselves winners of the decision, sitting on a nice 20 point lead.
The Flyers game plan now began to completely fall apart as the side let emotion get the better of them, all whilst the Raiders continued to feed, continuing to score simple shots. The only points the visitors could muster in reply were scraps left to them through the odd foul, and the effort simply wasn’t enough, leaving the game to fizzle out with the Raiders in Charge.