The weekend could not have gone much better for the Raptors in their search for a second National League title, and another promotion. Raptors started the weekend in third position in a battle with Northants Thunder and Birmingham nights for the two available promotion places.
On Saturday, Raptors travelled to Tees Valley to play the Mohawks, a side who have upset a number of the top teams this season. The Raptors started well in the opening few minutes and led 9-2, only for the Mohawks to come back and close the gap to 21-19 by the end of the first quarter. Following some stern words from the Raptors coaches, the players responded to play a brilliant second quarter to take a commanding 57-36 half time lead. Josh Houghton was in fine form, as was Ben Chicken and Conor Porter who all scored freely in the first half.
The second half belonged to Anthony Kuczaj who dominated at both ends of the floor, grabbing 16 points and 13 rebounds. The team continued to play well collectively and increased the lead futher in the third period and closed out the game with a good 102-78 win. Josh Houghton top scored with 25, supported by Kuczaj with 16, Estrada 14, Chicken 12, Porter 12.
The good win on Saturday became even more important on Sunday as both Northants and Birmingham lost to Leeds and Derby respectively to catapult the Raptors into the commanding position with three games to play. Rossendale sit top of the division, with Promotion and the league title in their own hands. The Raptors play Birmingham at home on Saturday, before travelling to fourth places Leeds on Sunday. Leeds have had impressive results recently and will be a tough test for the Raptors who are taking nothing for granted. Rossendale will then face Leeds again at home on the 8th of March.
Both of the final two home games are free entry and the Raptors are hoping a big crowd will come and cheer them on to a successful promotion bid.
Coach Ken Masser commented; “It’s been a roller coaster of a year, with injuries, changes in playing personnel and a change of coach earlier in the season. The players have handled those problems brilliantly and have competed hard every week. We’ve really come together as a team and we now have a chance to do something special. Our goal has always been to get promoted and hopefully we can do that. Brimingham will provide a stiff test on Saturday, and Leeds are a very experienced and difficult team to beat, so we have a lot still to do. But this weekend will be the first time this season we have a full squad to choose from so hopefully that puts us in a strong position.”
“It would be a great to get a bumper crowd in to support the team and hopefully we can make a little piece of history over the next two weeks.”
It could be that just one win from three will be enough to secure promotion for the Raptors depending on other results; two wins will definitely see them go up; whilst three wins from three will see them crowned Division 3 North champions.