Bell leads confident Raiders to opening win against Lions
MARJON Plymouth Raiders opened the new BBL Championship season with a confident and comfortable victory at the Pavilions yesterday.
Raiders sent home a big crowd happy with a convincing 22-point win over London Lions.
Raiders rolled their sleeves up and knuckled down on defence, outhustling Lions with quick and active hands forcing 22 Lions turnovers.
Raiders, led by guards Jeremy Bell and Michael Ojo, were then quick to turn defence into attack and forced Lions back onto their heels all afternoon.
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Raiders' effort built a 17-point, 58-41 gap by half-time before a 15-5 home run at the start of the third quarter stretched the lead to 27, 73-46 and put the contest to bed.
Bell, who dazzled with an electric and game-high 40 points, said: "We wanted to put on a good show for the fans and show them what we're about this year.
"We wanted to get up and down the floor a little faster, because we know we're a smaller team this year."
Bell set the tone early in the first quarter, hitting two short jump-shots to make it 6-0 and scoring nine points in an opening 15-7 streak.
Lions were made to chase Raiders' tails the rest of the way.
Bell, working behind a Javarris Barnett screen, sliced his way to the visitors' rim from the left wing to make it 8-7 and then stroked home a three from the left corner to push the score to 11-7.
"I wanted to come out and lead by example and show my team-mates how much I want to make this an important season," said Bell, the BBL's Player of the Year back in 2011 in Cheshire Jets colours.
"I want to help bring a championship back to the city of Plymouth.
"I feel the club are putting in a good effort to try and help make that happen, so I feel the players have to go out and repeat that effort."
Ojo had 23 points and said: "I feel like myself and Jeremy have a good connection in terms of the fast-break.
"I told him that any time he gets the ball I'm just going to take off up the court, so we can try and get some easy baskets.
"We know London like to run on offence, so we wanted to play them at their own game. It worked out well."
Behind Bell and Ojo, centre Matt Schneck played the main supporting role with 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Schneck said: "When you can rotate guys like Jeremy and Mike and Drew Lasker in your backcourt, that's a nice tool to have. Other teams are going to have a hard time guarding them.
"Those three are going to be go-to guys for us this season."
Schneck ran the floor well to convert an emphatic put-back dunk to cap Raiders' opening 15-7 run in the first frame.
Raiders stepped back on the gas late in the first and early in the second quarter, with a 14-2 tear ballooning the gap from 20-15 to 34-17.
Schneck sparked it with a bucket inside before Ojo added fuel to the fire, burying a big three from deep behind the top of the arc off Barnett's alert offensive rebound.
Ojo and Bell then both enjoyed arguably the play of the night when Bell threw a huge alley-oop pass from the right hand side of midcourt to Ojo on the left baseline.
Bell's assist was perfect; Ojo's dunk furious.
Ojo then picked off another errant Lions pass to attack an unguarded London basket and make it 31-17 heading into the second.
"We have explosive, athletic guys on the wings, so we're going to be more of a fast-break team this year," said Bell.
"We're more guard orientated. Hopefully the fans can have a good time watching us."
Schneck said: "We've worked hard in pre-season. It's been a gruelling four weeks, so to see that carry over onto the court in our first game is nice.
"London battled away for 40 minutes, but we were able to pull away in the third and fourth quarters. It was a good win for us."
Schneck left Jets to make the move to the Pavilions during the off-season and added: "It's been a great move for me, coming down here this summer. The fans have been awesome.
"We had a great atmosphere in the arena. It was nice to see it packed. Hopefully we can get even more in this weekend."
Lions guard Orlan Jackman split a pair of free-throws to cut the gap to 14 points, 45-31 before an 8-0 Raiders run rebuilt the gap to 22 late in the first half.
Bell had four of the points, igniting and capping it, while inbetween back-up big-man Liam Potter, on his full debut for the club, enjoyed back-to-back second-chance baskets inside.
Potter didn't get much change out of the referees yesterday and had his minutes limited by foul trouble, while guard Drew Lasker was Raiders' sixth-man off the bench in a core seven-man rotation.
Lasker showed his qualities at both ends of the floor in 24 minutes with eight points, five assists and one steal.
Academy player Tristan Hall came off the bench late in the fourth, while Jay Marriott and Jamie Burchell, completing a five-strong Raiders bench, remained unused.
Starters and forwards Colin O'Reilly and Barnett had full debuts to forget and will want to quickly move on from disappointing individual displays.
Barnett, who shot 1/9 from the field, tweeted last night: "I couldn't throw it in the ocean, but will definitely get better."
Raiders remain a work in progress at both ends of the floor.
At times, they struggled to click offensively and defensively they couldn't prevent Lions grabbing 24 offensive rebounds.
Ojo said: "It was an okay first day at the office. We didn't execute like we wanted to and we had a lot of turnovers, which was sloppy.
"But we can work on that. It was a good win to start the season."
Love added: "We had some quiet individual performances, but to win by 22 points is excellent.
"London are a young, athletic and hungry team, so to put them away like that was impressive."
Bell and Ojo combined for 11 points in Raiders' 15-5 run at the start of the third quarter which decisively stretched the lead from 17 to 27 points.
Ojo and Bell with the assist completed another alley-oop to spark it before O'Reilly knocked down 3/3 free-throws after Lion's Duane James knocked him into next week out on the right wing.
Ojo then, at the halfway line near the left sideline, threw a pass over his head to Bell, breaking clear to Lions' cup to make it 65-41.
Ojo drilled a three from the right wing over his man, Jackman, to make it 69-46.
Ojo was toying with him by then.
Points: Raiders: Bell 40 (19/29 Field-Goals), Ojo 23 (9/20), Schneck 17 (6/10), O'Reilly 9 (2/6), Potter 8 (4/4), Lasker 8 (4/7), Barnett 3 (1/9); London: Jackman 16 (6/17), James 16 (5/7), Ogedengbe 13 (4/9)
Leading rebounder: Raiders: Schneck 13; London: Jackman 8
Leader in assists: Raiders: Barnett/Lasker 5; London: Sturt 3
Field-Goal Percentage: Raiders: 53 per cent (45/85 attempts); London: 37 per cent (30/82)
Three-Point Percentage: Raiders: 36 per cent (5/14 attempts); London: 17 per cent (5/29)
Free-Throw Percentage: Raiders: 68 per cent (13/19 attempts); London: 68 per cent (21/31)
Total rebounds: Raiders 52 London 48
Offensive rebounds: Raiders 18 London 24
Turnovers: Raiders 19 London 22
Fast-break points: Raiders 24 London 12
Biggest lead: Raiders 27 London 1
Points in the paint: Raiders 48 London 36
Points off the bench: Raiders 16 London 18
BBL Championship: Worcester 92 Manchester 80, Leicester 80 Cheshire 72, Sheffield 69 Surrey 81