Rarely in sport can a team beaten by the league leaders claim to have delivered a shock, but in their final NWBA Phase One game Brewers Lite did just that against the leviathan that is Cheshire Raptors.
The Lite, as a development team in their first season, have already exceeded expectations by not finishing the phase at the bottom of the table, but they faced a team that has only been kept to single-figure wins by its top-three rivals Mold and Panthers.
To the casual onlooker this should have been at least a 50-point win for the Raptors. But in their short time together Brewers Lite have gained a reputation for upsetting the form book and they stepped right up to the visitors, showing no fear to their unbeaten opponents.
They started hard and put the Raptors on the back foot, racing into a 19-10 first quarter lead. The Raptors were always going to respond in kind – the question was how would the Lite respond.
The visitors found their footing in the second quarter, looking more like themselves as they posted a 25-10 quarter to lead by six at the break.
MVP Easaw George was causing the Raptors plenty of problems however, as was the resurgent Hubert Paluch, who found his smile again.
Marcin Feidorowicz also put in a good shift, supported by Hayden Kavanagh and Alec Doyle as they fought hard to deny Raptors a dominant inside position throughout the game.
With captain Adam Lloyd driving them on the Lite forced Rapors to attack from range. As a result their efficiency dropped and a massive defensive effort from the Lite saw them give up just a single point lead, the Raptors edging the quarter 10-9.
Going into the final period trailing by just seven points, the Lite had a chance to cause a real upset. They gave it everything they had, putting their bodies on the line time and again to force Raptors into areas they didn’t want and disrupt the rhythm, while at the other end trying to get the looks they really wanted.
While those efforts were not rewarded, the Lite could be proud that they never allowed the Raptors to get away from them and in the decisive fourth quarter, with tiring legs and fouls mounting up, they still made it 17-16 to lose the game by just 8 points.
George top-scored with 22 and Paluch made 14 but for head coach Ben Scott the performance was about much more than that.
“This was a fantastic result,” he said. “Look, winning this game would have had no impact on our season, we would still be in Division Two, there was no advantage.
“But this is a team that only formed in September. A team has brought so many new players in and tried to impose a playing style in a short time, a team with some players just graduating from youth basketball and others lending their experience.
“For that group to be one of only three teams to hold Raptors to a single-digit win is immense. Honestly, if you’d asked any of us beforehand we’d have told you that was not going to happen.
“But these guys just keep surprising us. Whatever is thrown at them, they rise to the challenge. It’s not all about results, it’s about character. Young Andrew de Guzman for example – he’s still finding his feet in the adult game but he stepped onto the court and calmly nailed a three minutes later. Ash Millington, relatively new to the game, all over the Raptors offense swatting balls away and grabbing rebounds.
“I could go through and name everyone for something they did but as a unit, this Brewers Lite team is definitely one to watch.”