Stewart Jr.’s strong half sets up Raiders win

A MASSIVE first half from import Wayne Stewart Jr. was a crucial factor in the Knox Raiders NBL1 Men’s National Final last weekend.

Although he was not the highest scorer of the match, Stewart Jr. was extremely important in not only keeping Knox in the game, but putting his side in a winning position.

The Raiders were stunned when the Flames jumped out to a 14-2 lead in the first quarter, which was largely set up on the back of some electric shooting from the field. Although Knox tightened up defensively, it needed to generate some offence in quick fashion in order to stay in touch with the reigning champions.

That spark came in the form of Stewart Jr., who took control of the team’s offence, got the Raiders’ score ticking over and managed to flip the script after it looked like Rockingham was going to run away with the game in front of its home crowd.

The importance of Stewart Jr.’s performance cannot be understated, and although some players finished with bigger numbers, his showing stood tall in the context of the game.

Rockingham Flames (85) def. by Knox Raiders (90)

Wayne Stewart Jr. – 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block

Stewart Jr. was as prominent a presence as anyone on the court in the first two quarters, having a massive say on how the game panned out for Knox.

Of his 19 points, 17 came in the first half in an explosive scoring display. He has shown incredible offensive craft over the course of the NBL1 South Men’s season and put it all together during the first 20 minutes of play on Sunday.

He nailed Knox’s first shot of the game, pulling up from mid-range and knocking down a jumpshot over the defender. Despite Rockingham’s strong start, Stewart Jr. remained aggressive with ball in hand, and after a quiet period as not only a player but as a team, the shots began to fall.

Stewart Jr. exploded for a monstrous and-one dunk that sparked some life into the Raiders, giving the team some energy and inspired a comeback from that point on.

As the team lifted, he led the way, ruthlessly driving into the paint and putting some pressure on Rockingham’s interior defence. The Flames simply could not slow him down prior to halftime, as he embraced contact and either drew the foul or finished through the contest from the defender.

He slowed down in the second half, copping some close attention that prevented him from getting downhill as much. However, Stewart Jr. was instrumental in getting the Raiders to the ultimate prize with his inspiring performance.

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