Plymouth Raiders focus purely on stunning holders Eagles
JEREMY BELL is counting on Marjon Plymouth Raiders' impressive away form and hurt pride to upset the odds and KO holders Newcastle Eagles in tonight's BBL Cup semi-final second leg.
Raiders are 4-1 on the road this season, with the city side's only defeat coming against front-runners Leicester Riders 83-80.
In that match Raiders were without suspended guard Mike Ojo and Bell believes some less than generous calls from the officials cost them dearly on November 10.
At full-strength and with more sympathetic decisions from the officials, Bell is adamant Raiders would have ended Riders' seven-match winning start to the 2012/13 campaign and be 5-0 on the road to boot.
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"Our supporters are great and back us brilliantly in home games, but we have got better results on the road this season," said Bell, who is second top scorer in the BBL this term.
"I think there are less distractions on the road; you can just focus on the game.
"Perhaps we've tried too hard to come up with a performance for our fans this year. On the road you just have the game to concentrate on.
"That should help us tonight."
Bell said Raiders under-performed while Eagles played red-hot basketball at the Pavilions to control Sunday's first leg 107-90 and all but book their place in the BBL Cup final on January 13 at the NIA in Birmingham.
But brilliant American point-guard Bell, who top scored for Raiders with 29 points against Eagles, reckons it ain't over until it's over and insisted Plymouth beating Newcastle on aggregate is 'definitely do-able'.
History is not on Raiders' side as tonight's game is a repeat of last year's final where Eagles collected the first of four pieces of silverware with a 115-94 victory.
Raiders and Eagles also met in the BBL Trophy final last season where each side won their home leg, but Eagles made it two pieces of silverware with a 184-177 aggregate success.
Player-coach Fab Flournoy's standout side also won two of three BBL Championship games between the teams.
As if to further compound the extent of Raiders' task tonight, Eagles have won 10 of the last 12 meetings between the sides, and have a 23-11 lead in the all-time series between the two franchises.
Nevertheless, Bell insists knocking off 17 points in basketball is not beyond the bounds of reality.
He admitted Raiders will have to play at a high tempo tonight and against the side he believes are the best in the league.
But Bell remains sanguine over their chances.
He told Herald Sport: "I think it is achievable, but we've got our work cut out.
"Newcastle are a very experienced team, as you can see by their results – they know how to take care of business.
"It's a learning process for us. We're going forward trying to get together while Newcastle have been together a while.
"Oobviously, it's going to be tough, but yes, it's do-able."
Bell scored 29 points as did Eagles duo Damon Huffman and Charles Smith at the Pavilions on Sunday, with the latter, who hit 6/10 threes, coming in for special praise from the Raiders' ace.
He said: "He (Smith) was phenomenal just as he has been throughout his career.
"He's a tough guy to stop and it's going to take a lot of concentration, so we're going to have to focus a lot on defence as well as offence.
"We're going to have to try and outscore them say by three or four points a quarter, but that is definitely do-able.
"I don't think they'll be complacent because of their lead. They've got a great coach and he won't let them; they're too experienced to go down that route anyway.
"They've got shooters all over the court and they all work really hard for one another.
"We just have to do a better job ourselves and try and locate them in transition and make it tougher for them.
"Basically, we've musn't worry about what they are going to do, just concentrate on our own game and make it as difficult for them as possible.
"We need to execute and make sure we make good decisions, lock in on defence and try and win.
"I'm not going to predict what's going to happen but, hopefully, we can do to them what they did to us last weekend."
Eagles guard Joe Chapman was delighted with his side's win in Plymouth last Sunday.
He said: "I think our loss against Leicester got us motivated this season.
"Now we're peaking at the right time, getting accustomed to our roles and starting to get going.
"Anthony Martin came off the bench on Sunday and played well. Charles and Damon shot very well, and Darius and Kareem Maddox did a great job in the middle."
Chapman, the league's reigning Player of the Year, added: "I was just trying to get everyone the ball as Plymouth were double-teaming me a lot on defence.
"A lot of teams have tried to blanket me this season. I knew that would be the case and I've had to change my game and get other guys involved.
"It's worked well. They're making their shots."