The Plymouth Raiders came agonisingly close to victory, losing 76-88, in a tense Southwest derby BBL matchup, with the Bristol Flyers, Sunday at Pavilions.
Although the Flyers executed a 12-point win, the score line flattered the visitors who were mostly held in check during an exhilarating 40 minutes.
New signing, Eric Eaves, was disappointed at the result, but felt himself improving over his first game.
He said: “We should have got that one, but they ended up turning the game around.
“Yeah, I feel like I am improving, this is only my second game in a year so I’m doing well, getting into a rhythm again, so my play should only improve from here.”
The guard was also glad to finally put points to his name in front of another sell-out home crowd.
He said: “Yeah it feels good, especially since I didn’t score in the last game so getting my first points really released the stress.
“Oh yeah it was great atmosphere, me personally, I’ve never played in an atmosphere like this at home, it was good to finally experience it.”
The Raiders were the dominant force in the first quarter, clearly shrugging off any lingering bumps after their loss two nights previous.
Raiders were first to go down though by four, the Flyers hit a couple of layups early whilst forcing the Raiders attack to shoot from outside the arc.
The deficit was quickly overcome though, with the hosts securing their first lead of the afternoon.
Eaves seemed to quickly acclimatise to the electric atmosphere, after a shaky start for the club Friday night. The Plymouth crowd were treated to the rookies first points after Will Neighbour stole the ball and set up a bounding Eaves to dunk.
Neighbour would continue to click well, connecting with three himself soon after. In no time at all the Raiders were up seven and looking to put the half on Ice in the first quarter.
The defence was a shining factor on the sides good start with 7 steals and an Eaves block by the half. It seemed every time the Flyers held possession anywhere near the paint, Raiders players would swarm and disarm the attack. This aggressive defence would lead to 24 fast break points by the buzzer.
The Flyers did eventually tighten their own defence though, and got back into the game by the second quarter, and both teams matched scoring as the half approached.
Joonas Jarvelainen picked up four points for the Raiders, swishing his field goal from the corner whilst being fouled to pull his side ahead, but in the blink of an eye the flyers replied with seven of their own, putting themselves ahead in one of eight lead changes for the game.
A dramatic blow was dealt to the hosts soon after losing the lead. After a solid half of play, Neighbour came tumbling down in a heap after colliding with Flyers guard, Jordan Davis, whilst retreating onto defence off the ball. Neighbour needed support to stand, and limped off the court to remained benched for the duration of the game.
The third quarter started with two sluggish offences going against two strong defences. Scoring remained low as both sides struggled to convert shots to points, until Raiders Tre Bowman got hot, sinking a three pointer from the top of key, quickly followed by another two the next possession.
The Raiders once again held the lead, and extended it with the basket of the afternoon, when Jarvelainen launched a floating shot from almost mid court range.
It was fitting that both sides who had equalled each other through the first 30 minutes, entered the final quarter even on 54 points, and neither side wanted to surrender momentum.
The lead swung between the two local rivals, the Flyers were first to go ahead by five, but the Raiders refused to be shutdown, replying with five of their own.
Since both defences were playing at such a high level, field goals were being forced, and whenever the Raiders went down, Louis Sayers would be the one getting a crucial three, to keep the hosts in it. Sayers would finish the game with a team leading 44% field goal accuracy.
With the final lead change of the game, the Flyers held a slim four-point lead with 1:39 remaining, and as the crowd volume intensified, some questionable decision’s put the Raiders in a hole they ultimately couldn’t get out of.
Both Eaves and Jarvelainen made plucky shots at the rim from the outside, and both could only watch their efforts rebound into the waiting defence.
If these important possessions had led to two’s, then maybe the hosts could have made a run for the win. The Flyers on the other hand scored when it mattered the most, connecting with six free throws from six as part of a 12-point run that all but put the game to bed.
With the win, the Flyers capped off a clean derby season sweep over the Raiders, winning all four games.
The loss served as the Fox’s third in February, dropping their season record to 5-16.
See post game interviews with Gavin Love and Dylan Costello on Raiders TV.
Raiders have another weekend off next week before travelling to Newcastle on Friday 9th March. Tickets for the next home game against Manchester Giants on Friday 16th March can be bought online at www.ticketstore.co.uk.Game Stats & highlights