Raiders bid to stage unlikely rally at Eagles
MARJON Plymouth Raiders will adopt a can-do mindset as they bid to overturn hosts Newcastle Eagles' formidable lead going into the second leg of the BBL Cup semi-final on Tyneside tonight (7.30pm).
Raiders comprehensively lost part one of the semi-final, 107-90 at the Pavilions on Sunday, leaving most observers to believe that tonight's contest at Sport Central is little more than a formality for the Eagles.
But Raiders' players and coach Gavin Love refuse to see the final-four clash that way and are concentrating on chipping away at Newcastle's double-digit advantage and undermining their confidence.
The visitors know they will have to put on a 'much-improved performance' against Fab Flournoy's formidable outfit, but there is more than just face-saving at stake tonight.
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The aggregate winner will become the first 2013 finalist for the BBL Cup showpiece at the NIA in Birmingham on January 13.
The traditionally unlucky number 13 occurs twice in the new year final date, but it is the figure 17 – and how to reduce it – that Love and his talented team will be focusing on this evening.
Eagles, who swept the BBL silverware board last term, will start as clear favourites having dominated at Plymouth thanks in no small part to 29-point hauls from their sublime pair Damon Huffman and Charles Smith.
But, insisted Love, Raiders will be playing for personal and professional pride, eager to set the record straight and prove they are a 'much better team and closer' to the celebrated hosts than the first-leg scoreline would suggest.
Love told Herald Sport: "I certainly think overcoming Newcastle's advantage is do-able, but it will need a much better performance.
"Seventeen points is a lot, particularly against a team of Newcastle's quality.
"But do I think we're capable of doing it? Yes, I do, but we can't afford to repeat the mistakes we made in the first leg.
"On Sunday we made fundamental mistakes, mainly on offence. Our shot selection and decision-making was not good enough.
"That gave Newcastle the chance to hurt us, which they did.
"We know we are a better team than that and closer to them than we showed on Sunday.
"The performance simply wasn't good enough and unacceptable for us."
Love added: "We're playing for a place in the final and for pride.
"We're fourth in the league and we'll have play like a top-four team tonight and ensure we leave it all out there."
If Raiders are hoping Eagles will think it is job done having amassed such a big lead, player-coach Flournoy has ruled out the hosts being complacent.
Flournoy, who is hopeful of playing tonight after sitting out Sunday's sortie with a tight hamstring, insisted he and his players had too much respect for Raiders than to simply go through the motions.
"Given the amount of talent on the Plymouth team I don't see there is any way we will be complacent," said Flournoy.
"Seventeen points can be done extremely quickly."
He added of Sunday: "I can't really single any one of our players out. They all followed the game plan we had.
"We really moved the ball well and knocked down the open shot when we had it."
Love said: "Eagles look to have started the season as they finished it last year.
"They have added fresh faces who have meshed with their roster straight away and have a very talented team.
"But you can't look past the Joe Chapman and obviously Charles Smith is playing at a very high level.
"That's why Newcastle are where they are, because they have guys like Chapman and like Smith, who are a level above everyone else.
"Those two know how to win and they put serious points on the board."