The strongest defence in the North Wales Basketball Association helped the Brewers fire a warning shot to the league as they secured their place in Division One for the second half of the season.
Adam Lloyd’s side had a tough challenge – only a win at Wirral Raptors would guarantee their place in the leading group of five and a shot at the league title when the NWBA splits in a few weeks.
But Lloyd and assistant coach Niel Gillard have been building for this, building on that granite defence with layers of intensity and offence.
The visitors came out hard and seemed to shell-shock the Raptors. Gillard opened with three from downtown and the Brewers kicked on with the Raptors seemingly slow out of the blocks.
The Brewers were locked-in, moving the ball well and taking their chances, while at the ogher end their pressure and rebounding kept the Raptors at bay.
By the end of the first quarter Lloyd’s men had built a 25-9 lead. That was surprising not because the Brewers weren’t good for it – they very much were – but because throughout the quarter there was a palpable sense that, at some point, the Raptors would switch up a gear and reel them in.
But the moment simply didn’t come. In the secon quarter Luke Sharland-Wong found space down low time after time and when that wasn’t on, the Brewers offensive three-point threat was alive, in particular MVP Easaw George.
With notworthy contributions from captain Dave Thomas, Joe Hughes, Hubert Paluch, Wissam Elkak, Marcin Fiedorowicz, Alex Jones and Jay Redbond, by half-time the Raptors trailed 47-19. That prompted a request for an extended half-time from the home side as they regrouped and attempted to come up with a plan to counter the Brewers’ threat.
Lloyd primed his players for the big Raptors comeback after the half – warning against complacency. And initially it looked as if the game was back on as the Raptors exerted a little more pressure on the Brewers.
But this is not the Brewers team of a couple of years ago. The players have evolved and are more resilient. They worked through the initial burst and quickly rediscovered their touch, George nailing shot after shot on his way to a game-high 27 points.
At the end of the third the Brewers had built a 37-point lead and had just 10 minutes to maintain that lead and secure their place in the NWBA top five.
The Raptors did begin to get a little joy and take the game to the Brewers but the damage had been done. One quarter was simply not enough to overturn the deficit and despite Raptors taking the quarter 11-7, the Brewers emerged victorious.
Afterwards Lloyd said: “I think that was the best performance we have delivered all season – and it came right when we needed it.
“Our captain Dave Thomas often tells us in the huddle, that we are beating teams now that we would be surprised to beat in recent seasons. We’re not surprised anymore.
“Since this club started we have had to prove people wrong and earn our place and our respect. We don’t have a problem with that, but I can honestly say that right now, this group of players is one of the best in the North Wales Basketball Association.
“We’ve achieved our first objective – qualify for Division One. Now it’s all to play for. We are in among the Molds and Cheshire Raptors of this world – but they are in with us too. No-one is guaranteed anything, we’ll need to fight and earn what we get. But we’re ready.”