The tension was palpable on Wednesday evening as the Raiders stepped onto the court for their third game in just four days. Having only been given a 24 hour window to purchase tickets, Plymouth fans solidified their reputation as amongst the best in the BBL with a huge turnout on the night. The Raiders faithful, vociferously supportive throughout all four quarters, were deservedly praised by Head Coach Paul James in his post-game interview.
“To turn around in 24 hours and nearly pack this place was awesome. Credit to them for helping push the team on this season.”
It was clear from the outset that both sides were suffering from fatigue and the score remained 0-0 until the third minute of the first quarter. This slow start soon blossomed into an intense back and forth with each defence standing strong when called upon. The Raiders were able to stay composed throughout despite a number of lead changes and with the last play of the game Donte Nicholas sunk a crucial basket that kept Plymouth within touching distance for the second leg.
Coach James was quick to praise Nicholas for yet another stellar performance but warned that more players would have to step up in order for the Raiders to progress.
“The key to him pushing us through to the final I think is some of the other guys stepping up, scoring the ball and rebounding. Donte is going to do what he has to do, as is Josh (Wilcher.) The other guys you know Deuce (Hassan,) Uno (Payne,) Joonas and Denzel. Those guys are going to have to come in and put in a big performance on Sunday.”
Nicholas was undoubtedly the focal point for the Raiders on Wednesday evening, coming agonisingly close to yet another triple-double. The 6’5 guard dominated around the rim with an incredible 17 total rebounds whilst also contributing 16 points and nine assists respectively. The BBL Player of the Month appears to be improving exponentially and Raiders fans will be hoping that he will have saved his best for Sunday.
Rashad Hassan and Josh Wilcher will also play key roles in Plymouth’s pursuit for play-off glory. The free-scoring duo combined for 35 total points in the first leg and Raiders fans will be keen to see those levels of consistency follow through to this weekend’s game. With Hassan feeding off Nicholas’ deft link-up play and Wilcher commanding the team from deep, Leicester will do well to keep up with the Raiders once they find their rhythm.
Tim Williams and JR Holder were the stand-out players for Leicester in the first leg scoring 37 points between them. Williams, who has an impressive field goal percentage of 57%, needs to be disrupted more often by the Raiders defence if the team is to progress on Sunday. The imposing forward has relished playing Plymouth this season as evidenced by his 34 point haul at the Pavilions in February. Whilst it may not be an easy task, the Raiders know that if they can stop Williams, they effectively stop the Riders offense.
Having dramatically sealed the last play-off spot on the penultimate weekend of the season, Plymouth Raiders now find themselves one game away from the play-off final. An entire season’s worth of work comes down to these four quarters of basketball. The Raiders are ready. The city is ready. Here come the party crashers.
If you want to secure your ticket for the semi-final second leg you can find more information on the Plymouth Raiders Twitter page @officialraiders. There are a limited number of coach tickets priced at £35.00 for supporters. If you aren’t able to make the game you can keep up with the score on Twitter or watch it live on BBC. Tip off is 6.00 p.m.
Let’s go Raiders!