In perhaps the biggest shock of the season, the Brewers achieved a result few expected as they turned over North Wales Basketball Association leaders Cheshire Raptors by 11 points.
But that is the view from the outside. Inside the Brewers camp there was a genuine belief that, for the first time since the Raptors emerged from the break-up of the Brewers’ 2018 invincibles team, that the purple and silver could claim victory.
With Head Coach Adam Lloyd’s pre-match words ringing in their ears the Brewers set about their task, knowing that hard work and hustle were the key to repeating the success they had against second-placed Wrexham Warriors a few weeks ago.
With a gameplan and a full bench they hit the court and locked down their defence, frustrating the usually high-scoring Raptors by controlling the boards and refusing to buckle under their full court press.
The starting five of captain Dave Thomas, MVP Niel Gillard and Stalwart centre Luke Sharland-Wong, Wissam Elkak and Carlos Gonzalez set out the stall for the home side and by the end of the first quarterr they held a slender one-point lead 16-15.
Lloyd balanced his personnel well to maintain the pressure on the league leaders, utilising Jay Redbond, Joe Hughes and Cameron Blundell to maintain the energy and momentum.
Alex Jones offered a threat from range as the Brewers continued to nullify their visitors, finishing the half 29-26 ahead. Against a team so used to scoring big – they beat the Brewers in the reverse fixture by 70 points earlier this season – this was already an achievement.
But the Brewers were not done yet. To tackle their traditional third-quarter slump, Lloyd sent out his rapid guard line-up – Elkak and Aaron De Guzman.
It worked, bringing high energy and tempo to the opening minutes and getting the Brewers going. By the end of the quarter it was 44-41 to the Brewers and they expected a major onslaught from the Raptors as they pushed for the win.
But it never came. Whatever the Raptors threw at the home side they had an answer for, and with the bench energising the players on the court the Brewers stepped up their game, winning the final quarter by eight points as they chalked up a memorable victory that lifted them into the top four, albeit with the chasing pack having games in hand to play.
“I can’t tell you how incredibly proud I am of that performance,” said Lloyd after the game. “That is the first time since they joined the league we have beaten them and I know that no-one thought it was possible beforehand.
“But we did. Everyone involved with this club has worked hard for that. Rebuilding the club, getting through Covid, rebuilding the club again, turning up to training, keeping the positive, friendly atmosphere we are known for and coupling that with a strong work ethic.
“Building a defence that is the envy of many and evolving together as a group. We came into this game needing to put all that into one pure performance and we did that. From the guys on court to the guys in training who push each other so hard, everyone who has been a part of the journey can take credit for that. That was a fantastic win for us.”
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