Clinching the final spot with four crucial wins from their last six games, the Raiders now face regular season champions London Lions on May 5th at the Pavilions.
Despite the gulf between their final league positions, Raiders Head Coach Paul James remains confident that his side can compete with the very best in the BBL.
“We’ve just got to go out there and play; do your homework well, execute the game-plan and see what you can do. We’ve beaten them once, we were close to them the third time. I think we’ve got a game-plan that certainly can make things difficult for them.”
James’ stoic self-assurance is not unfounded. Just last month, the Raiders came agonisingly close to victory in the capital city. Leading for the majority of the game, the Lions needed a dramatic late surge to deny Plymouth, what would have been, a season-defining win.
The Raiders will be looking to their talismanic forward Donte Nicholas for inspiration once again this Sunday. Nicholas was recently proclaimed BBL Player of the Month for the third time this season, making him impossible to ignore in the conversation for 2018/19 MVP. In the month of April, Nicholas averaged a double-double of 21 points and 13.7 rebounds, as well as contributing 6.5 assists per game. In the Raiders last game against the Lions, Nicholas ran riot, accumulating a spectacular 29 points, 20 rebounds and 9 assists. If Nicholas can produce a similar performance this weekend there is a good chance that he can successfully tame the Lions defence.
Though he may not have collected as many accolades this season, there can be no doubting the influence of Josh Wilcher on this Plymouth team. The 5’10 Australian point guard has been a bastion of consistency and professionalism throughout the 2018/19 season. Though his on-court leadership qualities are apparent for all to see, it is his ability to execute under pressure that separates Wilcher from most other players. Averaging 17.35 points per game with a three point conversion rate of 41%, Wilcher is primed to elevate his game once again this Sunday as the Raiders prepare to enter the Lions den.
The player to watch for the Lions is undoubtedly Justin Robinson. Robinson has proved to be indispensable this season, leading his side to a BBL Championship title, averaging 19.24 points and 4.94 assists per game. The reigning BBL MVP has combined athletic prowess with pinpoint accuracy to terrorise teams throughout this campaign and the Raiders defence will have to maintain an aggressive press if they are to keep him quiet.
This event may be billed by some as David vs Goliath, but Plymouth’s recent form and the electrifying presence of Donte Nicholas are two variables that simply can not be overlooked. With a rocking Pavilions and the backing of a city, one thing is certain, the Raiders are not here just to make up the numbers. In order to proceed in and win this competition you have to beat the best, whether that is in the first round or in the final is largely irrelevant. It’s knockout basketball, it’s the first leg of the Play-Off Quarter-Final and it’s Plymouth’s time to shock the BBL.
You can get your tickets for Sunday’s game at www.plymouthraiders.com/tickets. Make sure you follow all the latest news @officialraiders on Twitter and you can catch highlights and interviews on the Plymouth Raiders YouTube channel. The second leg of this BBL Play-Off Quarter-Final is on Monday at the Copper Box Arena, tip-off time 4.00 p.m.
Let’s go Raiders!