Jaguars end era on high
If this was the last game in the brief but magnificent history of Richmond Jaguars, then the end was very sweet. A barnstorming second half performance from the west London side gave the Jaguars an 82-67 win over Rotolok Plymouth Raiders, completing a unique treble of league, trophy and ultimately the NBL play off Championship. Cometh the hour, cometh Steve Wit, the 6'8 American contributing 27 points and 12 rebounds to inflict only disappointment upon the massive travelling Plymouth contingent who had come to cheer on their heroes.
Raiders made a promising start again the team who have been their season long nemesis at every competitive hurdle. Five early points from last year's final MVP, American guard Jim McGilvery helped the Devon side into a 10-7 lead, with Plymouth hustled their opponents into some offensive lapses. A 0-6 Raiders burst midway into the opening half was a result of a certain disarray in Jaguars' game flow, a full court press from their opponents briefly limiting their options. A pair of three pointers from McGilvery extended the advantage to 25-32, but a 8-2 spurt soon signally that Richmond were back in the groove. Dennis Ley drained 5 points in 50 seconds to tie the game at 35 apiece with 3:28 remaining in the half. Then veteran England international Richard Scantlebury stepped up for 7 quick points, the last a Hail Mary shot from just inside the half way line as the buzzer sounded, sending Jaguars ahead 42-38 at the change around.
Plymouth's player-coach Gary Stronach opened the second half with a three pointer to reduce the deficit to one point, but it proved atypical of the remaining minutes. Jaguar runs of 6-0 and 7-0 put Charles Bannerman's team in complete control, ahead 59-46 with 11:34 to play. Wit and excellent point guard Matt Holmes combined to reek havoc, while Plymouth's cause was not helped by an early exit from forward Daniel Okonkwo. The Nigerian, who will represent his country at this summer's World Championships, was unfortunate to end a highly productive season with a poor showing, his fifth foul effectively hitting the nail into the coffin of Raiders' chances. Consecutive treys from McGilvery and Jimmy Smith reduced the gap to ten as the contest entered the final 5 minutes, but Jaguars continued to play hard until the end to complete their trophy sweep. Scantlebury added 22 points and 9 rebounds, while McGilvery led his squad with 17 points.
Coach Bannerman paid tribute to his all-conquering squad. "We've had a bunch of great athletes, full of mutual respect and Dennis and Richard in particular showed some of the other guys the way forward. The got out fighting and when the pressure came up, they handled it very well."
Stronach was quick to pay tribute to his opponents, and felt that despite his team entering the final with a ten game winning streak, they had no answer to the Jaguars' greater inside game. "We just didn't perform. We struggled and everything we tried didn't work and I take my hat off to Jaguars ball club. The worst thing is that we brought 1700 fans here and I'm a bit disappointed for them."
Bannerman has not yet given up hope of saving the club, but admits it is unlikely that new sponsors can be found. "It's up to the owners now. It's out of the hands of myself and the players now. Next season, I'm going to coach because that's what I do and I've sent a few letters out." A poor reward for a job well done.
NBL / EBBA Archive