?????On Saturday last Rossendale Raptors faced their biggest challenge yet when they played Warrington Wolves at Haslingden S.C. Warrington, ably player-coached by Delme Herriman, a veteran of 78 England caps, were promoted to the division above Raptors last season and have recruited several new players with Division 1 experience.
The game started very tentatively with both sides taking time to settle, but Warrington were first to get their game together and soon led by 6 points with strong inside moves. Raptor responded and increased their intensity, but Mark Cowell, their big-man, was in early foul trouble trying to defend the home basket. Warrington led 15-12 after the first quarter with James Steer and Usman Baba scoring 6 each in the opening period.
Warrington opened the second quarter on a 14 point run as Usman Baba continued his scoring spree but the Raptors clawed their way back into the game by half time on the back of three quick 3's in the closing minutes of the half. Warrington led 38-30 at the half, Baba having 14 points by half time. Good work by all the Raptors players ensured that they stayed in the game.
Warrington put on a very effective press and again extended their lead to 16 by midway through the third but a huge fast break dunk by Raptors Ionut Slabu seemed to spark the Raptors who then want on a 16 point run to tie the game at 55 with a minute left in the third quarter. A Tom Griffiths free throw and a Delme Herriman jump shot closed the quarter 58-55 to Warrington.
Herriman opened the fourth quarter with a deep 3, and the lead remained at around 6 while the teams traded baskets. Raptors upped their defensive efforts and with four minutes gone in the fourth Quarter, Matt Ngara hit a deep contested 3 which was quickly followed by an Aaron Kay baseline jumper to tie the game. Another Kay jump shot put Rossendale in the lead with 4:59 to go in the game. In the closing minutes a 6 point burst from Usman Buba sealed the game for Warrington, who won a close contest 79-71. It was an exciting game with 10 lead changes, with only 1 point in it coming into the final four minutes. Rossendale, who were clearly the underdogs stayed in the game throughout and had chances to win the game in the closing minutes.
Warrington’s Usman Buba finished with a game high 26 points and 8 boards in 32 minutes, whilst Matt Ngara top scored for the Raptors with 15, closely followed by ex-local lad Aaron Kay who scored 13 points in 15 minutes. Steve Graham had a good all-round game with 5 assists. Ex Manchester Magic Stars Amo Bell and Steve Boonham were well controlled by the Raptors who, despite starting and playing significant minutes (16 & 23 minutes) were held to 5 and 3 points respectively.