Heat Raid the Raiders
29 October 2012
The Surrey Heat have been gathering momentum during the opening weeks of the season, facing ever-increasing challenges and confidently disposing of them. However, on Sunday came the stiffest challenge yet; a trip to Plymouth where the Heat had only won twice in the last four years. Worse still, the Raiders had started the season unbeaten, having scored at least 100 points in all their games. In contrast the Heat had only allowed a single opponent to score more 80 points or more this season; that was when they lost on the road to London Lions, their only defeat.
Before the game, Heat Head Coach, Creon Raftopoulos, had preached defence as the key to winning, predicting that if his side kept the Raiders below 80 points, they would come away with the victory. So it turned out, although for the opening quarter, it didn’t look that way at all, as the Heat still seemed to be on the coach, somewhere on the A38, letting the Raiders score at will. Even when they weren’t scoring, the Raiders were grabbing all the rebounds.
The Heat trailed by nine, 14-23, at the end of the first quarter, but started to impose themselves in the second. They opened with a 6-2 run, but after the Raiders hit back with a 6-2 run of their own, the Heat were back down by nine, 22-31, with four minutes to play. At least the Heat were controlling the tempo and had slowed down the Raiders’ scoring, which was a sign of things to come.
Frank Holmes got them underway with five straight points as he started to dominate inside. At the other end, Sam Cricelli came up with two crucial blocks and a defensive rebound. This helped hold the Raiders to just one basket as the Heat compiled a 9-2 run to get within two at 31-33. Then, just as the Raiders threatened to pull away with two quick scores, Sam scored four quick points to leave the Heat down just two, 35-37, going into the second half. More importantly, the Raiders were on track to be held below the crucial 80-point mark.
Sam started the second half as he ended the first, scoring the Heat’s first six points, and eight of their first 10. By this point, however, the Raiders had got out to a fast start, pushing the lead out to seven, the Heat down 43-50, with four minutes gone. The Heat then went on a game-changing 18-2 run over the next four minutes. Martelle McLemore, who’d drawn the short-straw defensively by having to check the Raiders’ free-scoring guard, Michael Ojo, went to work at the other end, scoring the next five points. Both came from fast-breaks as the Heat’s defence fuelled their offence. The first was a three-point play and then came another pair from the line after a particularly hard foul.
The Heat kept attacking the basket, Albert Margai and Chavis Holmes both slicing through traffic to score. Chavis scored with a short jump shot then Martelle stole the ball and drew an unsportsmanlike foul from Ojo on yet another fast-break. After Chavis scored with another drive, Martelle had yet another steal and fast-break lay-up. Of the Heat’s last 20 points, 16 had come from taking the ball to the basket or from the free-throw line. When the Raiders threatened to stage a comeback with five quick points at the end of the quarter, Frank Holmes was on hand to score the last three points to send the Heat into the fourth up seven, 64-57.
The Raiders made a move, closing to within four at 66-62 before the Heat put together another impressive run, outscoring the Raiders 13-2, to put them up 15, 79-64, with four minutes to play. However, the Raiders weren’t done, coming back with an 11-1 run in just two minutes as they turned Heat misses into quick points. However, order was restored as Chavis ran the perfect offense to find namesake Frank inside on the switch. He finished in style, shrugging off the desperate attempts of the Raiders’ Jeremy Bell, to deny him a basket.
As the Raiders continued to push for quick points, they started missing and had to keep fouling at the other end. Martelle made three of four from the line before Frank and then Chavis scored on fast-breaks to complete a 10-0 run and push the Heat ahead, 90-74. The Raiders scored a couple of meaningless baskets while Frank was the recipient of a through-the-legs pass from Chavis for a three-point play and finished off the scoring with an assist from Caylin Raftopoulos.
The Heat were led by Martelle McLemore’s 23 points in his best all-round performance of the season. He added 11 rebounds for a double-double and three steals and three assists. Chavis Holmes had a double-double of his own, 17 points and 10 assists, while Frank Holmes added 20 points, getting the better of his match-up with the Raiders Matt Schneck who fouled out battling Frank for a rebound. Sam Cricelli added 18 points and, having gone 1-7 in the first half, shot a perfect 7-7 in the second.
The Raiders were led by Colin O’Reilly’s 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Schneck added his own double-double of 16 points and 13 boards, 10 on the offensive glass. Jeremy Bell added 19 points while ex-Heat guard Drew Lasker, had eight points and seven rebounds.
The Heat now have a week to prepare for the visit of Plymouth in the BBL Cup on Saturday, 3rd November, 7 o’clock tip-off at the Surrey Sports Park.
Talking after the game, Coach Raftopoulos was delighted with his team’s achievement.
“This was an important win for the team’s motivation. We’ve had a poor road record against Plymouth over the last few years so it was good to come in here and get the win. Our defence was the key again and it was a great team performance. With Julius Joseph out (sore back), Albert Margai stepped up and Frank Holmes played hard and kept his cool. Martelle McLemore and Chavis Holmes were outstanding, Sam Cricelli was making shots again and Caylin Raftopoulos and Peter Simek played their parts, allowing me to give the others plenty of rest.
“With these wins, we’ve now got pressure and expectations on us. We’re going to rise to the challenge though. We’ll enjoy this win and celebrate on the way home, but come Monday, we’ll be back, working hard. Plymouth will go back to the drawing board and look to get one back on us next week in the Cup, so we’ll have to be ready, but we’re going to ride this wave as long as we can.”