Plymouth Raiders 108 – 89 Surrey Scorchers

The Plymouth Raiders outshone the Surrey Scorchers Sunday, to dominate their way to a 108-89 victory at the Pavilions. 

All phases of the Raiders play out-skilled their opponents who couldn’t find a way to mount any form of reply to allow the comfortable runaway victory.

After his sides 11th win on the season, head coach Paul James was pleased with the squad’s performance, he said:

“It was a big game for us tonight and a must win game for us, we had a tough game at the London City Royals last night and didn’t get back until the early hours of the morning, so for the guys to come out and play with the intensity they did was really good to see.

“There were some tired legs out there so that’s why I tried to rotate the team as much as I possibly could to give some people rest and keep the energy levels high.”

That rotation was important to the lower levels of the Raiders bench who saw good levels of court time and a big lead to support them. Despite this, James’ expectation of the players was just as high, he said:

“The fact you’re up 20 is nothing in this league so even when rotating the bench in they need to go out there the proper way and play within our concepts offencively and defencively.

“At times we did that, at times we didn’t, so there’s still a lot of work to be done but it’s a great experience for them to be out there.”

Rashad Hassan lead the teams scoring for the second night running with 29 points, following up a sublime 34-point haul away. Coach James was full of praise for the forward:

“Hassan could have had 50 last night if he had made some of the chips he missed and again he could have had 40 tonight, but he’s having a tremendous season for us, he’s real solid inside and the fact we can have that inside/outside game from him really helps the team.”

Still tired from their previous night’s loss to the London City Royals, the Raiders entered the Pavilions in a heated three-way tie in the mid BBL table, with a number of teams looking to take a hold of the lower playoff positions.

After a couple of wayward attempts early on, the Raiders started with success in the paint laying up shots around some tight Scorcher defence. A slim lead managed to open and could have been a little higher if it weren’t for some less than stalled shooting from the line.

Defensive rebounds weren’t an issue though, and the Scorchers had immense difficulty finding the shots they wanted through the first quarter, leaving many of the resulting hurried attempts in the hands of a pouncing Raiders defence.

Devontavius Payne then lit up the court with a trio of canon shots fired from beyond the arc, puncturing a nine-point hole into the Scorcher underbelly. Josh Wilcher would add three of his own, as the city side finished the opening 10 immaculate from range, with four, to prop up a commanding 14-point lead.

The Raiders continued to play a good complimentary style of basketball through the second quarter, transitioning at both ends well whilst scoring with consistency to maintain a more than comfortable lead.

Donte Nicholas had himself a strong quarter, dropping the ball into the spot with wide angled runs into the paint. At times all the Scorchers could do was foul in the open lanes in a vain attempt to slow down their opponents who subsequently tightened up their own free throws to further the cascade of points.

With the half looming large over the court, the Raiders began to show some chips in their offencive drives as play got scrappy below the rim. Some shots seemed to have a determination not to roll home, but others were wayward from release. With the slow end to the second, the Scorchers were able to squirrel themselves away some important points, dragging themselves back to 14 behind after trailing 20 earlier in the quarter.

Hassan would end the half leading the Raiders in points with 14 and rebounds with nine, with Wilcher and Nicholas also sharing in double digit scoring. Fast break points were another highlight of the Raiders first half with the home side outscoring the Scorchers 13-3 in this category.

The Raiders leapt out of the halftime break to stun the Scorchers into a panicked timeout as they received a seven-point drumming within the opening 90 seconds. The timeout seemed to do the trick, with the visitors using some rebound help to score four right back again.

The brief period of stability wasn’t to last for the Scorchers who were hopeless across the court, failing to fit well as a unit. The undisciplined play was amplified by the Raiders who gave no breathing room at the other end, darting inside right past any scraps of defence to slowly add a range of two’s to their score line.

Playing with their largest lead of the afternoon, coach James’ side had little need to introduce any risk to their play, opting to execute smart possessions and keep the ball work inside the arc to pad the lead.  With said lead now over 20, James began to use his bench to work some valuable minutes into the extended squad which served as a big help in resting tired legs nagging from the previous night’s loss.

The game eventually closed out the same as it had run all afternoon, with the Scorchers searching for any forms of connected team play, leaving the Raiders to run amuck and close out a victory that was arguably secured as far back as the first quarter.

The win brings the Raiders back to one game below .500 within a cluster of good mid table teams hungry for wins, but coach James is focused on topping them all, saying:

“Whether it’s the sixth spot or the eighth spot, we don’t care, we’re just trying to make the play-offs and we have some really tough and important games coming up that we need to win and one of them was tonight.

“Hopefully if we can just go out there and play the way we know we can, share the ball and trust in each other, we’ve got a great chance at cementing a play-off place.”   

Rob Tunley