D1: Derby’s unbeaten record faces massive test in League & Cup double-header
Derby Trailblazers eleven game unbeaten start to the season across all competitions faces probably its sternest test yet, as they combine a tricky Saturday afternoon trip to London Lituanica with a National Cup Quarter Final tie against Manchester on Sunday afternoon (4:15pm).
As the name suggests, London Lituanica’s team is made up almost entirely of Lithuanians who live and work in and around London. Many of them have jobs which the lengthier away trips untenable, something which results in them being a much harder team to play at home, than they are when they travel to other clubs.
That potential difficulty was demonstrated to good effect last weekend when a full strength Lituanica side thrashed Hemel Storm 108-78, in stark contrast to their trip to Northumbria earlier in the season, which saw the Lithuanian’s beaten 98-48.
“The fact that Lituanica are so much of unknown quantity makes them a very a difficult team to prepare for,” admits Derby’s Assistant Coach and Performance Analyst Michael Hanson-Morris.
“As they’re at home, we don’t doubt they will have a near full strength team available. That presents further problems for us, because we do have a lack of information on some of their players, simply because they don’t travel. There’s also a lack of available video which makes scouting very difficult.
“What we know is that we can expect a very physical game and rebounding will be a critical area where we need to be successful. Ausridas Petraitis is one of the league’s best players and again is putting up great numbers averaging around 26 points and 15 rebounds per game.
“He will certainly be a priority for us but they have numerous other players who could hurt us from both the interior and perimeter. Their big win over Hemel last weekend shows their potential.
“Last season, we let a big lead slip against them last season and we’ve already spoken to the players about needing to stop them gaining too much momentum. If we can play like we have on the road so far this season, I’m sure we will be right in the game during the fourth quarter and then it will all come down to how we can execute again at the end of the game,” he said.
Beating London Lituanica in the League on Saturday afternoon is of course only half of Derby’s mission this weekend, as they also take on Manchester Magic in the Quarter Final of the National Cup on Sunday afternoon. Trailblazers Head Coach Matt Shaw says facing Manchester in the second half of double-header is less than ideal:
“When we have these double-headers, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, our focus is always on the first game. It’s unfortunate, because when you’re facing a truly great team like Manchester, you’d ideally want to plan a full week of practice, to prepare for them properly.
“Manchester lost back to back last weekend, which is unusual for them, but they’re still the team to beat. They won all four trophies last season, so we really want to try and beat them on Sunday if we can,” he said.
While Derby face the trip to London on Saturday, Manchester take on Worthing Thunder at home and Hanson-Morris is homing they don’t lose again, as that would potentially make them an even more dangerous proposition:
“We know Manchester will be keen to bounce back from last weekend’s defeats. They’ll also want to try and become the team which stops our winning streak.
“From our perspective, Sunday’s game is a completely free swing for us, because our primary focus is on the league campaign.
“Until about seven o’clock on Saturday, we will be entirely concerning with trying to preserve our unbeaten start to the season. Only when we have taken care of business in London can we, as coaches, begin to think about trying to prepare ourselves and our players for Sunday.
“It’s always nice to be able to play a cup quarter final at home and I’m sure the crowd will help us through what will be a fiercely contested game to conclude a tough weekend,” he said.
Saturday’s trip to London Lituanica gets underway at five o’clock at New Vic Sixth Form College in London, while Sunday’s important Cup Quarter Final is a 4:15pm tip at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre, Noel-Baker School in Alvaston.
The full line up of game for the weekend is as follows:
D1 Men: London Lituanica v Derby Trailblazers; 5pm at New Vic Sixth Form College, London
D4 Men: Sheffield Sabres v Derby Trailblazers II; 4:30pm at All Saints Sports Centre, Sheffield
U18M Prem: Derby Trailblazers v Stoke on Trent Knights; 2pm at Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre
U16 Boys: Ilkeston Outlaws v Derby Trailblazers; 3pm at Broomfield Hall
U14 Boys: Derby Trailblazers v Leicester Warriors II; 12 Noon at Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre
Cup QF (D1Men): Derby Trailblazers v Manchester Magic; 4:15pm at Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre
U18M Cup R4: Derby Trailblazers v Leeds Allerton Force; 12:15pm at Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre
U18M Conf: Derby Trailblazers II v Birmingham Mets; 2:15pm at Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre
U14 Girls: Hatfield Flyers v Derby Trailblazers; 12:15pm at Thrybergh Sports Centre
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