Plymouth Raiders 57 – 66 Sheffield Sharks

The Plymouth Raiders pulled up short in the fourth quarter to drop their second home game of the weekend to the Sheffield Sharks Sunday, in a low scoring 57-66 BBL championship defeat.

Both sides fought hard throughout the game, but the visiting Sharks kept a cool head and a large enough buffer to keep the Raiders at bay despite the home outfits attempts to drive themselves into the lead.

After his sides second loss in as many days (one in the cup and one in the championship), head coach Paul James was pleased with the team’s defence during the loss. He said:

“It’s disappointing, you keep a team down to 66 points, a fantastic defensive effort in any game, but we just couldn’t score the ball.

“I don’t think we clicked for the whole game really, we had guys that I think maybe played a bit passive offensively and I expect more from them.

“We kept ourselves in the game and just needed a period of two or three minutes where we played good basketball, I don’t think that really came from us today but to keep them down to 66 points, any coach in this league would want that defensive effort.” 

The Raiders were lucky not to lose by a more lopsided score after going behind by nine in the first four minutes of the game. James was pleased his side didn’t let themselves get disheartened before the game got away from them. He said:

“We made a great effort defensively, I don’t think the game every really got away from us apart from the last couple of minutes where we just didn’t execute anything offensively.

“I think it’s a competitive league this year, the fact is you have to show up to every game, and I think we’ve shown we’re a solid team.

“We’re like the walking wounded at the moment missing Joonas and Josh, that’s a lot of points and a lot of production.”  

The sharks rolled into Plymouth red hot with a five-game win streak in the championship, a stack of results good enough for a 6-3 record and 2nd in the table.

At the outbreak of play, it seemed as if the Raiders were still in warm up mode as the side got behind early to large margin. Three effortless points started the games scoring quickly as the Sharks pounced on the tip and shifted up court to find net. 

The score was quick to further mount against the Raiders who came close a couple of times but lost out in the rebound game. The Sharks on the other hand, flowed with confidence led by a stand out Dirk Williams dunk, beating Raider coverages inside with ease. 

By the mid-point in the first quarter, James was forced to slow the game and readjust a game plan clearly off the rails, with the Raiders trailing by nine. The timeout seemed to do the trick for the hosts, and the defence began to show some solidarity to slow Shark possessions down. 

Shooting seemed timid at the other end though, with some questionable passes being batted around from the paint. Donte Nicholas and Denzel Ubiaro would fight for valuable points, though, heaving the score back to level pegging by the end of the first at 19. 

Yet again, with the break in game came a swing in momentum, and the Sharks remained sharp in all phases, stringing together solid defensive sets and pinpoint passing on the break to out pass the Raiders.

Shooting also seemed to loosen up a little as a result of rushed Raider retreats, giving Shark centre Michael Tuck some open looks from beyond the arc, which he punished. 

Still, the Raiders kept up, refusing to let the score slide like it had to begin the game, finding themselves, often the hard way, through the Sharks markers to layup two’s. 

A timely three to cap off some late offensive fouls, helped the Raiders punch in the final points of the half to keep the fast-paced game close going into the lockers. 

Other than a lopsided blip to begin the game, the two sides played a level game statistically with similar percentages in shooting, steals, assists and bench points. The only difference the Sharks could boast was eight turnover points compared with the Raiders two, but little could separate the teams.

Rashad Hassan would be the standout shooter by a hefty margin during the first half, leading the Raiders with 11 points and three rebounds. 

The Sharks emerged with another explosive start in the second half, rattling off two’s whilst driving into the paint, coupled with a three resulting in a seven-point lead. But no matter what the visitors could muster, the Raiders would counter, nailing crucial shots and drawing fouls.

Both sides continued to reply point for point through the third quarter, but the Raiders always seemed just behind the Sharks who held control over the game despite fluctuating deficits. Mistakes seemed to be more prevalent for the city side who couldn’t find a way to keep possession, loosing passes attempting to work around the taller defence who also used their advantage to score.

An unfortunate break in play kept the court void of players for a 45-minute spell, as one of the backboards was replaced. The Raiders had a hurried warm up, then took the court to begin their attack on Sheffield’s five-point buffer.

With play resumed, both sides were quick to surrender penalties and handling errors as players tried to test the water and get back into the fast-flowing game. The score remained stagnant apart from a solitary Shark three and a couple of Raider two’s, but the Raiders seemed to have the upper hand, putting up some strong steals.

With the crowd in full voice, Raider green spread around the court to wrap up loose balls and marking assignments. The new-found injection of energy was a spectacle on defence but a no-show in shooting, with four Raider drives failing to carry any points in the most painful period of the game. 

The lack of Raider potency gave the Sharks the opportunity they were looking for and travelling side converted to set up the biggest lead of the afternoon at 11. With time quickly running out, the Raiders looked to find a reply, but ultimately fizzled out to lose before any real threat could be posed. 

Rob Tunley