Plymouth Raiders 94 – 79 Cheshire Phoenix

Plymouth Raiders welcomed Cheshire Phoenix to Plymouth Pavilions on Sunday afternoon looking to win for the first time in four games.

The hosts had a full strength team for the first time since the start of the season as they welcomed back Declan Soukup, Joonas Järveläinen and Josh Wilcher to the team after injuries.

As for Cheshire, it was a case of two in, two out for them.

The visitors releasing Jordan Session and Jimario Rivers in the week and bringing in Oakland University graduate Jalen Hays, as well as last season’s star man CJ Getty’s – who helped the Phoenix win the BBL Cup in the previous campaign.

Plymouth and Cheshire were equal on four wins and six losses in the league, so this was set up to be a close and enthralling league game.

After a long break, you could forgive both teams for starting this game a little sluggishly – and that’s exactly what happened to begin with, as both teams looked to get a foothold in the game.

It was Cheshire who opened the scoring with a simple two for Daniel Norl, which was quickly cancelled out with Rashad Hassan’s first points of the game, as both teams went blow for blow in the opening stages.

Hassan has been in fine scoring form this season, sitting third in the league average points per game with 20.2, and the American was in fine shooting form again hitting 8 points in the first quarter to get the Raiders moving in the right direction.

As well as the return of Getty’s, Cheshire’s other new signing Jalen Hayes was looking to make his mark on the game in the early stages. The American’s 7 points in the opening quarter would’ve gone some way to calming the debutants nerves at an atmospheric Plymouth Pavilions.

 

Denzel Ubiaro has seen more and more game-time this season under Paul James and his introduction in the second quarter saw the Marjon University student put in another impressive performance.

With the score at 18-19 in favour of Cheshire after quarter one, Ubiaro looked to make an instant impact in quarter two as he burst into the paint 10 seconds after the restart and tucked away 2 points – earning an and-one attempt for his trouble, which he subsequently converted.

Norl levelled the game soon afterwards before Plymouth went on a dominant 11-1 scoring run, including a peach of three-pointer from Josh Wilcher.

The ‘nix looked to battle back before the interval but it was Raiders who went into the half-time break 43-36 up on the visitors.

After the sluggish beginning to the game, both coaches would’ve wanted their teams to come out firing in the second-half and stamp some authority onto their opponents.

Plymouth looked far more up for it as the second-half begun, with the ever-present Donte Nicholas throwing down a 2 to get the crowd back on their feet.

The visitors were lacking leaders and Getty’s return to the side didn’t seem to have given the team the lift that the away fans were hoping for, as he fumbled the ball on several occasions and looked like the time he had spent in China had certainly knocked his confidence to some degree.

Raiders saw their opportunity to turn up the temperature at Pavilions and put their opponents under more and more pressure, with Donte Nicolas beginning to control proceedings and get into a scoring run. 

With the American in fine form, the hosts dominated the third-quarter, and ended up leading 72-55 at it’s end.

Cheshire coach Ben Thomas was staring a sixth straight loss in the face as his side went out for the final period of play, but may’ve gained a little hope as his side rallied for a short while and reduced the arrears to just 11 points.

Louis Sayers was playing against the Raiders for the second time since departing them last season and he was draining 3-pointers in an attempt to revive his struggling side.

In the end it was a 3-point shot of Plymouth’s which finally put the game to bed – Josh Wilcher’s effort put the game beyond Cheshire and saw Raiders to a first win in four games, the game finishing 94-79 in favour of the hosts.

Donte Nicholas was named MVP after 27 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds and 7 steals – a complete performance from Plymouth Raiders talismanic figure.

Plymouth Raiders continue their run of home games against London City Royals at Plymouth Pavilions next Sunday, tip off 3pm.

For tickets and information – visit www.plymouthraiders.com

Blaine Sperring