Plymouth Raiders boss Gavin Love hails impact of Drew Lasker
WHEN Marjon Plymouth Raiders really needed to come together and find a way to win, Drew Lasker made sure they did.
The American guard, who has made Plymouth his home since first arriving here eight years ago in 2005, scored six straight points to turn around Friday's BBL Championship contest against Durham Wildcats late in the fourth quarter.
Lasker's streak saw Raiders recover from 100-96 down inside the final three minutes to go 102-100 up with 10.9 seconds left in a 104-100 win at the Pavilions.
Victory ensures Raiders remain firmly in the mix to equal a highest ever third-place finish in the league this season.
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Lasker was Raiders' second top scorer on Friday, leading rebounder and leader in assists. More importantly, he was their emotional leader. He made his team-mates care about Raiders like he does.
The previous Saturday night, in a tense 91-89 home win over Surrey Heat, we saw Raiders players squabbling with each other on an ill-tempered evening.
On Friday, there happily was none of that.
"I was really happy our intensity was there," said Raiders coach Gavin Love. "Drew was fantastic. He just brought that energy and it was contagious."
Raiders centre Andreas Schreiber said: "Drew came up with a huge game. He was a great factor for us.
"He came out with a lot of energy and we just followed his example. That made the difference. Just to have that energy the whole game and not get too negative about things.
"We have to keep together and keep team chemistry as positive as we can. It was a positive step forward for us, definitely."
Love added: "Drew played great. You can't argue with his intensity and he ran our offence really well. Overall, it was a good team effort.
"I was just happy the effort was there. That's the main thing in basketball – if the effort's there you've always got a chance."
On a see-saw night at the Pavilions, which was a microcosm of their hot and cold form all campaign, Raiders led Wildcats 16-8 after an 11-3 run early in the first quarter.
Wildcats, with good movement on offence and great execution from the three-point line, then outplayed Raiders and built their biggest lead of the night late in the second.
Wildcats hit Raiders with a 16-2 tear which made it 44-35. Guard Paul Elderkin sparked and capped it with effortless threes from first the right corner and finally the left.
Raiders aggressively led by 10 points, 87-77 heading into the fourth after a 12-4 run late in the third when they ran at Wildcats and forced them to foul.
Raiders consequently finished an almost faultless 23/25 from the free-throw line.
Wildcats rallied with a 13-0 run at the start of the fourth to go back up at 90-87.
Raiders never led again until Lasker's short jump-shot from the right elbow rattled in with 10.9 seconds remaining.
On Wildcats' two possessions before Lasker's pivotal basket, Schreiber forced two vital misses from the visitors.
First, Schreiber did really well to shut down Elderkin shooting from the three-point line in the left corner before, finally, blocking Andrew Keister's frantic hook shot underneath the basket.
"Andreas gave us that intimidating presence we've needed inside," said Love.
Friday's victory avenged Wildcats' comfortable 98-81 win at the Pavilions in late-January.
Love said: "It was a good game. Both teams played well. We knew what Durham were going to do.
"They just shoot the ball well and were tough, and the strength of the league is apparent now this season. Durham are near the bottom and we're near the top. It was a great advert for the BBL.
"The game could've gone either way. Any win in the league now is hard to come by.
"We did a good job in the third quarter, which is something we haven't done in the last few weeks.
"Then our offence faltered in the fourth when we took some ill-advised shots, but we managed to go back to what we had been doing well and grind out a victory."
Schreiber said: "The score was lingering there late in the fourth. Then we decided we needed to get those two or three stops to get the game over with.
"We could easily have lost, because Durham had got on a roll. We were fortunate we had a couple of late plays from Drew."
Scorers: Raiders: Ojo 29 points (10/22 field-goals), Lasker 21 (7/13), Schreiber 17 (7/9), Barnett 13 (4/7), Schneck 11 (3/9), Williams 9 (4/6), Brown 4 (2/4), O'Reilly 0 (0/2); Durham: Keister 26 (11/16), Elderkin 19 (5/6), Baldarelli 19 (6/16)
Leading rebounder: Raiders: Lasker 11; Durham: Keister 7
Leader in assists: Raiders: Lasker 5; Durham: Bucci 5
Field-Goal Percentage: Raiders: 51 per cent (37/72 attempts); Durham: 56 per cent (34/61)
Three-Point Percentage: Raiders: 37 per cent (7/19 attempts); Durham: 52 per cent (12/23)
Free-Throw Percentage: Raiders: 92 per cent (23/25 attempts); Durham: 83 per cent (20/23)
Total rebounds: Raiders 39 Durham 25
Offensive rebounds: Raiders 15 Durham 6
Turnovers: Raiders 12 Durham 13
Fast-break points: Raiders 12 Durham 0
Biggest lead: Raiders 12 Durham 9
Points in the paint: Raiders 44 Durham 34
Points off the bench: Raiders 13 Durham 26
BBL Championship: Manchester 94 Cheshire 78, Mersey 58 London 78, Worcester 99 Surrey 81, Surrey 78 Newcastle 90, Durham 79 Worcester 83, Glasgow 72 Leicester 75, London 54 Manchester 39