London City Royals 103 – 105 Plymouth Raiders

Plymouth Raiders put together their first back-to-back wins since December following an emphatic 103 – 105 win over London City Royals at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

A high scoring first period saw the Royals edge in front thanks to an impressive five from five three point attempts in the opening five minutes. Baskets from Donte Nicholas, Josh Wilcher and Denzel Ubiaro kept the Raiders in the game but the Raiders still trailed by eight, 33 – 25 after ten minutes.

Royals continued there fine scoring in the second period, stretching their lead to double figures inside the first couple of minutes. A 15 – 2 run from the home side going into half time gave them a large 20 point lead at the mid-way point and a mountain to climb for the visitors.

Coach Paul James obviously said something to encourage the plyers during the interval, as the won the third period by 13 points, pulling them right back into the game. 13 points from Devontavius Payne and 8 from Nicholas in the period brought Raiders to within four at one point before the Royals closed out the quarter ahead, 82 – 75.

Payne continued in the fourth to open the scoring and following a Joonas Järveläinen basket with 6:47 remaining, the Raiders took their first lead of the game. The lead was traded until the final minute, when the Royals Orlan Jackman hit his fifth three pointer, his 28th point of the game to put the Royals ahead 101 – 98 with 53 seconds remaining. PJ called a timeout and used his experience to draw up a play that saw Järveläinen make a layup to reduce the gap to one. Following a timeout for the home side, Raiders quickly fouled sending the Royals to the line. Both free throws were made to make the gap three points again but then Payne stepped up, driving past his man, making a layup and being fouled in the process. He showed no nerves as he made the resulting free throw to tie the game with just 28 seconds remaining.

Royals again called a timeout advancing the ball into the front court. Strong defence from Payne prevented the ball being inbounded to their preferred option and instead it ended up in the hands of Jackman. Josh Palmer, on court for his strong defence put pressure on Jackman causing him to turn the ball over following a five second violation. Palmer’s job was done and he was replaced by Wilcher with the Raiders going for the win. The ball fell into the hands of Nicholas and as his shot left his hand, the buzzer sounded and the ball entered the basket. The Raiders bench emptied to congratulate Nicholas who showed why he is a candidate for the league MVP.

Payne’s 21 points, all in the second half, led the way for the Raiders and he was supported by Wilcher on 19, Nicholas and Järveläinen on 18 and Rashad Hassan on 16. Along with his 18 points and game winning shot, Nicholas also assisted ten baskets and grabbed nine rebounds, just missing out on his second triple-double of the season.

The Raiders will enjoy the win for a few hours before an early morning return from the capital and a quick turnaround when they will face Worcester Wolves at the Pavilions on Sunday. Tickets for the game can be bought online from https://www.the – ticketstore.co.uk.

Paul Smith