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D1 Playoff semis: Cheshire Raptors 75 Brewers 47

3rd May, 2024 | News | 0 comments

An epic season that saw the Brewers finally re-emerge as contenders for silverware, earn their place in the top tier of North Wales basketball and establish the best defence in the league came to an early end in the playoff semis.

There are no easy post-season games and facing Cheshire Raptors on the road was an especially tough draw, but Adam Lloyd’s men approached the game well prepared and confident they could deliver.

Fortune dealt the team a blow as talismanic shooter and assistant coach Niel Gillard was sidelined with illness, but such is the resilience and togetherness of the group that they felt confident they could make a run and find a path to the playoff finals.

The game started well for the Brewers, as their tough defensive effort asked difficult questions of the Raptors. So much so that they rotated in their big line-up earlier than expected to try to gain the edge.

That tactic worked as the home side edged the Brewers slightly, finishing the quarter five-points up.

Brewers were not at panic stations however, and they returned to the floor looking to close the gap. Hubert Paluch, playing his final game for the Brewers before returning to university, nailed back-to-back three pointers under intense pressure but the Brewers struggled to slow the Raptors’ scoring as they leaned heavily on their taller unit.

At the half the Brewers trailed by 13 and faced an uphill battle to claw their way back into the game. and while earlier in the season they had successfully closed and even overturned similar gaps, at this late stage of the season, they simply ran out of gas.

The effort never dipped, exemplified by captain Dave Thomas. ploughing on after a heavy knee collision to see out the game and the battling of Luke Sharland-Wong, Joe Hughes and Marcin Fiedorowicz in the paint.

Jay Redbond tried to find space to race away on the break and managed more than once, but a combination of quick tracking back from Raptors and bad luck with some calls meant he didn’t get the rewards his running deserved.

By the time the final quarter arrived Brewers were chasing a 26-point deficit – not insurmountable but it would take a superhuman effort.

But it’s been a long season and as the Raptors wound down a little, the Brewers could not step up the pressure as it ended 75-47, with Raptors going on to face Mold Magic in the final on May 11.

Paluch finished his final match in the famous Brewers purple as top scorer on 11 points while Sharland-Wong rounded off his impressive campaign by claiming the MVP award.

“This has been an incredible season and I have been fortunate to coach an amazing group of players,” said Adam Lloyd after the game.

“When you sit down afterwards and pore over the game, you can probably point to any number of reasons we didn’t win. But what’s important is how we got here and did we stick to our principles?

“The answer is yes. We kept our defence tight, as tight as we could with a major mismatch in height. We kept our effort high, driving each other on positively to attack and never sitting back to limit the damage. Most importantly, we played for each other. We shared the ball, ran the plays, trusted each other every time we released the ball.

“That is what has made this team special – our togetherness. When you look at how Hubert has come in and acts like he’s been here for a decade, Luke who spent a significant period out injured but comes in and puts it all on the line, Dave Thomas who plays through every knock with passion and energy to inspire his teammates.

“Niel was missing today but he has been a big part of our performance this season but also in this game – he has helped us to put the structure and playbook in place to compete and set an example to the rest of the guys all season.

“We have graduating junior players, guys in their prime and veterans in this team and they have all bought into the project and the culture. The result is that we have been successful on the court, which is amazing. But even more amazing is the group we have built. A group that, through the love of the game, has come together and created a Brewers family.

“I don’t know what next season holds yet, as a club we have to make those decisions in the coming weeks – as do the players.

“What I do know is this. The Brewers will return next season and we will be looking to finally regain that title!”

Lloyd also had a word of thanks for the club’s partners.

“None of what we have achieved, what we have built here, could have been done without the support of our partners. LMC Lighting & Electrical Services are our longest-standing partner and continue to support the growth of the club. Without them we couldn’t have launched our development team, Brewers Lite, and fewer people in Cheshire would have the opportunity to play basketball.

Admiral Taverns joined the Brewers family this season and have been fantastic partners, helping us to update our equipment and consequently improve our training so that we can better teach the skills and tactics we need to make the most of the game.

“Last, but not least, Quarry & Castle Project Management Consultancy. They have kept our website running smoothly alongside our social media team all season, providing a vital hub for anyone in the Chester, Ellesmere Port or North Wales areas looking to take up basketball or just keep an eye on how we’re doing!

“Our partners are as much a part of the Brewers family as our players and volunteers so a very special thank you to each of them for their generous support.”