Plymouth Raiders played Newcastle Eagles for the second time in a week on Friday night, following last weekend’s 83 – 91 loss at Plymouth Pavilions. The Raiders made the long trip north to face the Eagles in their first game at their new £7m, 2800 seater Eagles Community Arena.
Looking to spoil the party, but more importantly get the win, the Raiders had the first opportunity to put points on the board but an offensive foul called on Rashad Hassan allowed Eagles veteran Darius Defoe to do so. Eagles looked happy with their new venue in the opening few minutes, opening an 11 – 7 lead before a 6 – 20 run for the Raiders opened up a double digit lead. Eagles responded to close the gap to five at the end of the period, with the Raiders leading 24 – 29.
Newcastle continued where they left off, putting together a 13 – 4 run to hold a four point lead, their biggest of the night, in the opening five minutes of the second period. Three points from guard Josh Wilcher and six from Hassan put the Raiders back in front before both sides exchanged the lead with the Eagles holding a 50 – 49 half time lead.
Eagles started the second half with the trio of Williams players, former Raider Jamal, brother Kai and American import Kyle, scoring to hold the lead at 57 – 54. Wilcher and Hassan responded to put the Raiders back in front with six minutes to play in the quarter, and the visitors went on to hold this until late in the final period. Devontavius Payne, Donte Nicholas, Denzel Ubiaro and Joonas Järveläinen added to further baskets from Wilcher and Hassan to give the Raiders a 65 – 72 lead before Defoe reduced the gap to five with ten minutes to play.
The home side reduced the gap to a single point after two minutes before Raiders responded to open the score to 72 – 78 mid way through the quarter. Newcastle scored six unanswered points to tie the game, with the home crowd getting behind the men in black and white. A Nicholas free throw and three pointer step back from Wilcher quietened them slightly, but three more points from Defoe saw the Eagles still in the game with 90 seconds to play. Three missed shots from the Raiders and a miss for the Eagles knocked a minute off the clock with the score remaining 81 – 82 in favour of the Raiders. Nicholas, as he has been doing all season, found a gap in the Newcastle defence and was able to find Payne, open in the corner for a dagger three to give the Raiders a four point lead. Eagles leader Fab Flournoy called a timeout and drew up a play which saw Rahmon Fletcher score to reduce the gap to two. Newcastle needed the ball back so fouled Nicholas to send him to the line. Despite the home crowd trying to put him off, both free throws dropped. Fletcher missed a chance to reduce the gap to two again, with Nicholas gathering the rebound and being fouled again. Another two made free throws put Raiders up 83 – 89 with 19 seconds remaining. Fletcher again missed, this time from behind the arc and Nicholas was there again to get the rebound. Two more free throws completed Raiders scoring before Kyle Williams got a consolation three with a couple seconds remaining.
The 86 – 91 victory for the Raiders meant a lot for the team and coaching staff following last weekends defeat, and that was evident with the celebrations on court from the team. Support from travelling fans and supporters back in Plymouth was also clear with numerous congratulatory messages to the team being posted on social media.
As per last week, Hassan led the Raiders scoring with 22 points and he also grabbed 12 rebounds to give him a double-double. Nicholas and Wilcher both had 21 points and seven assists with Donte also adding nine rebounds. Kyle Williams led the Eagles and the game scoring with 23 points.
The Raiders returned to Plymouth after the game heading back north on Sunday when they face Cheshire Phoenix, 17:30 tip. Next week they travel to Leicester on Saturday (19th) before a visit to Sheffield on Friday 25th. They will then return home to the Pavilions on Friday 1st February to face Glasgow Rocks in the quarter final of the BBL Trophy. Tickets for the game can be bought online from https://www.theticketstore.co.uk