|Home Team||Raptors - National|
|Visitor Team||Sheffield Saints|
|Location||Haslingden Sports Centre|
|Match Date||Saturday, 16 November 2013 - 17:15|
|Match Score||88 - 75|
The Raptors won their third game in a row with what turned out to be a relatively comfortable victory against the very good Sheffield Saints. However the 88-75 final scoreline doesn't tell the true tale of the game.
Raptors were again a little sluggish out of the blocks and Sheffield led 16-8 after the first five minutes. The Raptors responded a little in the final few minutes and went in 24-20 behind. However, the Raptors defence still wasn't what the coaches were after. Saints continued to score easily behind the steadying and experienced hand of legend Garnett Gayle. Mid way through the second quarter Saints led 45-33 although the Raptors repsonded to the plea for some defensive stops with a 5-2 run in the final miunte to close the gap to 47-38.
Raptors star player Steven Gayle was quiet in the first half with just four points but came alive in the second half as the Raptors responded. The defensive intensity was much better, holding the Saints to just 13 points in the third quarter. The defensive effort led to steals and fast break opportunities for Gayle and Kuczaj, whilst Estrada continued to shoot the ball well from the perimeter as he had in the first half. By the end of the third quarter Raptors went one point ahead with a three pointer from Gayle.
At the start of the fourth the Raptors put the game out of reach of the Saints with a 19-4 run spreaheaded by Steven Gayle and new signing Papis Samb. Leading 80-66 Raptors coach Ken Masser turned to the bench who performed extremely well under some pressure from the Saints to close out the game 88-75.
All 11 Raptors players contributed with each playing over 10 minutes of game time. Raptors scorers were also well spread with everyone contributing as follows:
- Gayle; 22, Kuczaj 19; Estrada 16; Samb 10; Sutton 6, Graham 5, Siddiq 4, Platt 4, Michaleson-Yates 2
Ken Masser commented; "At half time I was a little disappointed with our work rate and effort. The guys responded to the challenge in the second half, and our defence was much better. We look very very good when we play tough defence and thats what we're spending a lot of time on in practice. Everyone played a really important part in the game today and we're trying to develop a culture where guys feel comfortable and confident to come into the game to express themselves and contribute in a meaningful way.
Our starters were fresh going into the fourth which helped us to pull away and get the result. Thats the benefit we're seeing from rotating the bench a little more and we've proved that we can come from behind and win in the fourth which is where we struggled previously. I'm really encouraged by the overall team performance in the second half in particular. I think we're becoming a well rounded unit - but theres still lots of areas we can improve. We'll hit practice hard this week as always and be better again next week."
"The size of the crowd was great today. The players were talking in the changing rooms after the game about how great it was to have so many people there. Hopefully the fans enjoyed the game and will come back for more next week."
Raptors are at home again next Saturday as we face Tees Valley Mohawks at 5:15pm at Haslingden Sports Centre.