Plymouth Raiders bounced back from a disappointing exit from the BBL Trophy on Friday night with an emphatic win in Surrey over the Scorchers on Sunday.
The Surrey Sports Park is never an easy place to travel to, and things were made harder with the absence of two regular starters. Captain Zak Wells was still missing through injury and forward Donte Nicholas did not travel due to sickness. This forced coach Paul James to retain Joonas Järveläinen in the starting line-up, as he has done for the past few games with Wells out, and Denzel Ubiaro in the place of Nicholas.
The game started with a fast pace and both teams connecting on their shots. After three minutes there had only been three missed shots and the score was tied at 11 – 11. Further baskets were traded by both sides and with 4:55 remaining in the first quarter, a Järveläinen basket gave the visitors a 17 – 18 lead, which they were to hold for the remainder of the game. Free throws from Järveläinen, guard Josh Wilcher and big man Rashad Hassan put Raiders up by ten, which stretched to 13 by the end of a high scoring first quarter with the Raiders leading 27 – 40.
The constant scoring from both sides continued into the second period. Nine points from Devontavius Payne, seven from Hassan, six from Wilcher and Shawn Shelton and two from Tola Okiki put 30 points on the board in the second quarter to add to their 40 in the first to give them a 53 – 70 lead at the half.
The pace slowed in the second half, but the Raiders continued to stretch the lead. Wilcher having one of his best games, contributed directly to seven of the 12 baskets Raiders scored as they held a comfortable 76 – 95 lead with ten minutes to play. In contrast to the other quarters, Raiders played it safe making easy baskets whilst giving the Scorchers space on the defensive end, not making any silly mistakes. The Scorchers reduced the gap to 14 in the final minute, but it was a confident performance from the visitors, taking a 98 – 112 win.
Wilcher was the standout player for the Raiders with 19 points and 19 assists, the most assists in a BBL game looking at records going back to 2008 / 09 and his best performance in terms of efficiency. Hassan had an equally good game with 34 points and 8 rebounds. Payne added 23 points in just over 20 minutes with 76% shooting whilst Shelton added 19 points and 8 rebounds from the bench. The win pushes Raiders into fifth place in the league with a 10 & 9 record with 14 games remaining.
Raiders will take confidence from the game when they return to the Pavilions next Sunday (10th) where they host second place Leicester Riders. Tickets for the game can be bought online from https://www.theticketstore.co.uk.