Plymouth Raiders 106 – 83 Worcester Wolves

The Plymouth Raiders capped off a monstrous 211 point 24-hour period Sunday, to win their second game on the trot, 106-83 against the visiting Worcester Wolves at Pavilions. 

With the chase for the final BBL championship playoff spots reaching fever pitch, the Raiders double win over the two-day stretch could prove vital if the side can close out the season, and secure a place in the post-season.

The two wins were of clear importance to head coach Paul James, who was visibly delighted with his squads’ dominant performances. After the game he said:

“In the last couple of weeks we’ve had some really solid practice sessions, everybody’s really tuned in to what we’re trying to do now and the execution has been good.

“Just like we did last night, we really got after the ball, we slowed these teams down.

“Both the Royals and the Wolves are very good in transitions, so we needed to slow them down and get them into the half-court game.”

Firing on all cylinders, James was further pleased with the Raiders strong defence which has backed up the weekends high scoring:

“I thought we played some fantastic defence tonight and at the same time we scored the ball very well and we shared the ball well which made for two great games.”

After picking up two wins in quick succession, coach James was relieved that his side scored points with the play-offs looming large. He said:

“I was more concerned with scoring two more points on the board tonight, the season is fast coming to an end and we’re still trying to cement our place in the playoff spots.

“We needed to get something out of this weekend and getting into both games was absolutely tremendous and now we’ve got three games left so we’ll keep on working and believing in what we’re doing.

“As long as we can get four or five guys into double figures, we’re a great team.”

Riding high off a seemingly impossible comeback win over the London City Royals under 24 hours prior, the Raiders looked to keep their playoff hunt hot, taking on a lowly Wolves side.

Although sitting at the bottom of the BBL championship standings, the Wolves have proved to be a fly in the ointment for the Raiders, with the northern outfit claiming two of their five season wins against the Raiders.

Eager to keep the immense levels of momentum alive, barely 18 hours after a buzzer beating win, it was the Raiders who proved hungriest from the tip, ferociously targeting the ball to pick up two early steals, the first of which was finessed in with a Devontavius Payne dunk.

Two quick layup replies from the Wolves gave away the early lead, but both sides struggled to find any reward for their quick attacks, with a stout imaginary wall built around the hoop blocking any fall -ins.

The scoring drought wouldn’t last more than five minutes, and soon both sides were hammering points home with ease at both ends. Josh Wilcher was first to get red hot, dropping a well-aimed three, followed closely by another two at the end of a beautifully crafted dart through the Wolves defence.

This flourish of points added to other hot shots from around the court to draw the home side ahead by four as play came to a close in the first quarter.

A steady stream of strong defensive stops allowed the trickle of points to continue for the Raiders who went on a 12-2 run to find themselves with their largest lead of the half at 13 as the second got underway.

Deshawn Freeman, who has proven himself a matchup nightmare for the Raiders throughout the BBL season so far, was again causing trouble on offense with the powerful forward showing his strength in the paint, proving himself to be the standout shooter in the first half for the Wolves.

Shooting would continue to be even for both sides through the second quarter as the squads began to find cracks to exploit on offense. Quick ball movement proved fruitful for the Wolves, whilst the Raiders flourished off speedy baseline runs to set up reverse lay-ins.

Joonas Jarvelainen would make sure the momentum was with the city side as the buzzer ended the half, planting six points off two three pointers, shot from exactly the same spot outside the top of the key, to give the Raiders a 50-37 halftime lead.

The Wolves came out from the lockers with some aggression of their own, in an attempt to bounce back and put themselves into contention before the score line became too lopsided. The Raiders, however, put pay to that notion quickly, continually proving themselves lethal from the mid-range.

Despite pin point accuracy, and help through some careless Wolves fouls, the visitors never quite seemed to be in the rear-view mirror early on, keeping the score line below 10 for the majority of the third, before the wheels fell off their attack.

Saturday nights star, Donte Nicholas paired himself well with Rashad Hassan, on the way to his own triple double from the game. The tiresome duo often found themselves playing quick passes between each other, to run circles around markers struggling to regain a footing through the transition. Running themselves open, the duo worked open-looks to put on increasingly impressive shots as time ticked onward.

Another quick burst of points proved to be a back breaker for the Wolves, who could muster no response to an avalanche of Raiders points, as Wilcher capped led the way with an impressive three between two defenders to set a 20-point lead ahead of the fourth quarter.

Keen to put away the Wolves for the first time in the season series, the Raiders didn’t sit back on their hefty lead, keeping a high pace throughout all phases to keep the pressure on. The strain was evident in the Wolves defence as shots continued to pay off, with the home side padding the lead by a further 10 in a four-minute spell. 

Hassan continued to play strong ball with his offensive rebounding proving pivotal. The forward held     outright control over the Wolves hoop even within the presence of three defenders, further boosting the electric atmosphere as his one man show continuously dropped a plethora of show reel dunks, and well executed lay ups inside.

Invigorated by the standout plays, the entire five-man rotation brought on a pounding of offensive might, showering points down on the heads of the Wolves who were left utterly demoralised by the Raiders, who calmly maintained the 30-point lead.

Playing some fresher legs from the bench, the Wolves managed to pull some points back, but the damage was already done after their fate was sealed back in the third quarter. 

The Raiders closed out to win in comfort, with the entire starting five ending the game in double digits, led in scoring by Hassan, Wilcher and Payne with 24, 21 and 18 points respectively, to go with another fantastic triple-double from Nicholas.

With three games remaining, the race is truly alive for the remaining BBL play-off spots.

Rob Tunley