Manchester Giants picked up their second league win of the campaign in a thrilling comeback 107-99 victory against the in-form Plymouth Raiders.
The hosts outscored their opponents by 32-22 in the fourth quarter to bring the Raiders’ three game winning streak to an abrupt end.
Led out by 25 points from power forward David Aliu, and a career-high 17 assists from James Jones, the home side ignited the building with a gritty second half performance which saw them come back from a 16-point half-time deficit. Aliu finished with 20 plus points for the third straight game and made an impressive 12 of 14 from the free-throw line. Stefan Gill continued his great run of form with 23 points four rebounds and a game-high four steals.
Both sides shot the ball well on the night as they each knocked down 12 of 24 from behind the 3-point line as well as making 50% of their shots from inside the arc. Trevor Setty came out firing for the visitors as he drained four 3-pointers in the opening seven minutes of the contest. Not to be outdone Gill also made a bright start with 10 points in the first period as the Giants held a 32-28 lead after the opening 10 minutes.
After a brilliant first quarter the home-side went ice-cold to start the second period as they were held scoreless for the first four minutes whilst the Raiders went on a tear reeling off 18 unanswered points. The Giants misfired on six shots in a row and turned the ball over three times before a 3-pointer from Yorick Williams ended their barren spell. Mike Bernard had a positive impact off the bench with nine points, four assists and three rebounds in 17 minutes of action. He scored two buckets in the period and drew plenty of attention from their opponents but it was the visitors who held a commanding 43-59 lead at the interval; outscoring the Giants 29-13 in the second period.
A rejuvenated Giants team took to the floor in the second half as Aliu scored three straight buckets as the hosts went on a 7-2 run to start the third quarter. James Jones then connected on a 3-pointer to make it an eight point game with barely two minutes played in the half. Setty continued to convert at a high-rate for the Raiders as he added six more to his tally on a variety of close range attempts. Bernard brought the house down with a thunderous dunk before Jones and David Watts ran in back-to-back layups as the home-side remained within striking distance of their visitors.
Masse Doumbe drilled a shot from the corner to put the visitors up by 10 but Watts answered right back with his fourth 3-pointer of the game to cut the gap to seven. Following a turnover by Raiders; Gill took the ball the length of the court for an easy two and on the Giants next possession he drained a jumper from the free-throw line to cut the lead to just three points. After Plymouth went 1-for-4 from the stripe Gill canned another jumper to reduce the lead to two. Aliu scored four more quick points for the hosts and it looked as if the momentum was with the Giants but a made free-throw from Gabe Haskins and a 3-pointer just before the buzzer by Louis Sayers ensured that the visitors led by two heading into the final stanza.
The fourth quarter was a back and forth affair with nine lead changes in the final ten minutes as the two sides battled for superiority. The Raiders’ Shane Walker scored eight of his 15 points in the period as he managed to find space to operate inside the paint. He converted a pair from the free-throw line to put the visitors up 92-90 with 4:40 left to play in the game. The Giants took the lead as Bernard and Watts combined to make 3-of-4 from the stripe before Setty made his way to the cup for a tough layup to put the visitors back in front. The two sides traded buckets as Gill scored a difficult runner and Ben Eaves found space in the paint and finished with a dunk as part of a 14 point five rebound night for the former Giants centre. Next time down the floor Jones found Gill on the wing for a huge 3-pointer to put his side up by two but Haskins replied straight-away for the visitors with a 3-ball of his own to put them up by one with two minutes remaining in the contest.
Aliu was fouled on the Giants next possession and he calmly knocked down a pair at the line to put the Giants back ahead by one. Both teams misfired on their next two possessions before Marsden somehow managed to find space inside and convert a difficult tip-in off a missed shot by Aliu to give the Giants a three-point lead with only 45 seconds remaining. Haskins misfired from long-distance for the Raiders who were forced to foul Aliu in an attempt to stop the clock and hopefully extend the game. Aliu went to the line and calmly iced both freebies to put his team up by five with 25 seconds to go. Pressey missed a three on the visitor’s next possession and the Giants knocked down three of their last four attempts from the stripe to give them a hard-fought and extremely well deserved victory against a very good Raiders team.
Manchester Giants: Aliu 25, Gill 23, Watts/J. Jones 20
Plymouth Raiders: Setty 22, Haskins 16, Walker 15
James Jones – 20 points, 17 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 turnover
In a game where his side needed someone to take on the task of keeping the offensive flow going; Jones rose to the challenge. His 17 assists were an outstanding example of his feel for delivering the ball to his team-mates in the right place at the right time and they didn’t let him down as they knocked down shots down the stretch. To repeatedly make such accurate dimes and only commit one turnover is a great achievement especially in a game that went down to the wire.
Play of the Game
Rob Marsden’s tip in with just 45 seconds left in the game was crucial. It put the Giants up by three points and left the Raiders with no choice but to go for the long ball which they subsequently missed before the Giants closed out the game from the stripe for their second win of the season.
Plymouth Raiders at home to Birmingham Knights, Sunday 17th November, Plymouth Pavilions
Manchester Giants away to Newcastle Eagles, Friday 15th November, Sport Central