Raiders 85 vs 103 Eagles

Plymouth Raiders suffered their first home defeat of the season at the hands of undefeated, and league leaders Newcastle Eagles on Sunday at Plymouth Pavilions.

Coach Paul James made one change to the starting line up from Friday night’s loss in Bristol, with Javis Howard replacing Shawn Shelton. Zak Wells won the tip for the Raiders and after a few passes, Josh Wilcher found Wells for the first points of the game. Newcastle replied with a dunk from Victor Moses and a three from former Raider Jamal Williams before Zak scored another two. The Eagles then put on a 3 – 15 run over the next five minutes to earn a double digit advantage early on in the game. Both sides traded baskets until the end of the quarter, but it was Newcastle who were ahead, 16 – 27.

The Eagles hit five early points to start the second period, and following a turnover by the Raiders, coach PJ immediately made three substitutions bringing starters Wilcher, Wells and Devontavius Payne back into the game. That seemed to steady the game and both sides fought through an even quarter scoring 25 points each, resulting in Eagles maintaining their 11-point lead at half time, 41 – 52.

Newcastle scored the first basket of the second half but three pointers from Wilcher and MVP Declan Soukup and a two and free throw from Payne brought the Raiders within four, 50 – 54 mid way through the period. A 7 – 20 run in favour of the visiting side saw them regain their double digit lead with ten minutes to play.

Despite five points each from Wilcher and Shelton, and eight from Joonas Järveläinen early in the final period, the Raiders couldn’t close the gap enough, coming closest at 69 – 82. Newcastle stretched the lead to 22 with a little over two minutes remaining, and despite Järveläinen scoring another eight points to take his quarter tally to 16, the visitors ran out comfortable winners 85 – 103.

Järveläinen 16 points in the final quarter helped him to a team high 20 points for the home side, whilst Wilcher had 14 along with eight assists and Donte Nicholas had 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Newcastle’s Jeremy Smith top scored in the game with an impressive 27 points, scoring 10 of 15 shots in just 21 minutes play and was supported by five other players scoring double figures including Moses, who along with 20 points had 16 rebounds and former league MVP Rahmon Fletcher who scored 16 points and dished out 16 assists.

Raiders return to the Pavilions next Sunday, when they host Bristol Flyers, 15:00 tip, in the BBL Cup. Following the loss on Friday night in Bristol, and with it being the ‘local derby’ a strong crowd is expected. Tickets for the game can be bought online from https://www.theticketstore.co.uk

Paul Smith