Plymouth Raiders shrugged off their nightmare loss to Newcastle Eagles by bouncing back to record an important and hard fought win at Durham Wildcats to end their mini-tour of the North-East on a high.
Jeremy Bell was the main architect of the success with 31 points while a drought either side of the third quarter break cost Durham dearly having led by as many as ten points in the second half.
With both teams having suffered losses 24 hours earlier, neither raced out of the blocks with any great confidence and in a low key opening, Durham moved into an 8-4 lead as Mike Capocci made a score after a nice assist by Ralph Bucci.
After their disastrous first quarter against the Eagles in their previous game, losing valuable early ground wasn’t an option for Coach Love and his players who replied instantly with a 12-4 run.
But, rather than allow the momentum to slip away, Wildcats regained the upper hand by finishing the first quarter with a flourish as they scored 9 of the last 11 points to lead 21-18.
Things looked really bright for the hosts when they started the second period with a jump shot by Paul Elderkin and a triple by Fred Hinnenkamp to extend their lead to eight but their superiority was only temporary.
Led by Jeremy Bell and James Jones, the visitors found another gear offensively and locked down Durham at the defensive end to storm back into the lead at 31-29 after a 13-3 scoring burst.
Ahead of half-time, both teams battled intensely to take control but neither could make a decisive break. Raiders still held a slender advantage at 39-37 but knew they had to make some outside shots when they returned to the floor after going 1 of 7 during the first half.
However it was Wildcats who showed the greatest improvement when they stepped back on the court as they made the visitors defence look decidedly lax by pouring in 18 quick fire points. That helped them to open up a precious double-figure lead with the impressive Capocci making it 55-45.
Not for the first time on their trip to the North-East, Raiders found themselves in a hole but this time they managed to dig themselves out of it with a blistering finish to the third quarter. They held Wildcats to just two more baskets during the last four minutes or so and poured in 18 quick-fire points of their own as their hosts’ defence crumbled.
Bell was still shining and Anthony Rowe also beginning to come alive which gave Raiders a 63-59 advantage heading into the last quarter. Having been ten points down, it wasn’t long before the Wildcats drought meant Coach Love and his team completed a 20 point turnaround to go ten points up.
It looked to have heralded the end of the game for Durham but known for their resilience and their never-say-die spirit, they recovered to set up a thrilling finale. They got to within 77-75 with 90 seconds remaining but it wasn’t to be as Raiders held on.
Paul Williams pulled down 10 rebounds for Raiders while the loss was tough on Ralph Bucci and Mario Flaherty who both claimed double-doubles for the home team.