D1: Derby grind out slender home win over Worthing Thunder
Derby Trailblazers 77 (13, 29, 49)
Worthing Thunder 73 (20, 33, 54)
NBL Men’s Division One
Derby Trailblazers had to dig very deep to grind out their ninth win of the NBL division one season. They were trailing for over thirty-three minutes of the match against a Worthing Thunder side who are finally through the worst of their injury crisis.
Only Tom Ward and Wayne Kitenge were missing from the visitors’ line-up, but while Derby had everyone kitted up, both Chris Taylor and Adria Amabilino Perez were troubled by injuries.
Worthing were clearly pumped up for the match. They had broken their five league game losing streak with an impressive 101-90 away win over Hemel Storm the previous season and got off to a great start against the Blazers as a result.
In contrast, Derby were slow out of the blocks, perhaps feeling the effects of having only seven fit players for the previous night’s win over Lancashire Spinners.
Fortunately, the Trailblazers saved something in reserve and after struggling for so long in the match they finally produced a dominant 15-2 spell early in the fourth quarter to snatch victory.
It was however Worthing who off to the better start, scoring the first six points, with the league’s leading scorer Lyonell Gaines bagging four of them. He was on his way to a game high thirty-four points and twelve rebound double-double.
It took a determined drive to the hoop from Rema Lascelles for Derby to finally get on the score sheet, after they had missed their opening four attempts. A steal from Josh Ward-Hibbert then quickly took the scores to 4-6, before Worthing embarked on a 10-2 burst.
The Blazers had called a time-out midway through the run, but it had little impact as they missed no less than five three-point attempts and turned the ball over too. Lascelles finally broke the rot with his first triple of the game.
The two sides then exchanged baskets, before the first quarter was brought to an exciting conclusion as Lascelles found Max Morrison for a scintillating alley-oop dunk, with the scoreboard reading 11-20.
Despite that, it was Worthing who had the early momentum in the second quarter. They opened the period with a 7-3 burst to lead 16-27.
Coach Matt Shaw was forced to call another time-out and finally got the response he required, as the Trailblazers hit eight unanswered points. Lascelles began the run with a triple, before Ward-Hibbert scored back to back shots with the latter including a bonus point from the foul line.
Gains broke the run after a Worthing time-out, before a three-pointer from Brian Amabilino Perez was followed by a lay-up from Morrison to tie the game with 1’10” on the clock. Worthing responded through Josh Brown and then stole the ball and scored through Gains to take a 29-33 lead into the half time break.
Gains began the third quarter where he’d left off in the second, but the Derby fans were on their feet moments later, when Lascelles found Oli Stanley for another alley-oop dunk. Consecutive scores followed for Morrison and Lascelles to tie the scores at 35-all.
Once again, the Blazers found they couldn’t capitalise from that situation. In fact, the opposite was true, with Worthing hitting a trio of three-pointers in a 9-19 run which saw them stretch their advantage to ten points.
A three-pointer from Adria Amabilino Perez was followed by a Worthing travelling violation, allowing Oli Stanley to claw things back to 49-54 as the third quarter buzzer sounded.
Derby needed a huge response if they were to maintain their 100% home league record and they could have done without Brown opening the final period with a three-pointer for Thunder. But Lascelles stepped up and after scoring himself, he fed Ward-Hibbert for a three-point play.
Worthing responded with a pair of free-throws from Gaines, but Thunder were subsequently held scoreless for four and a half minutes.
Over the same period, Derby piled in ten unanswered points, beginning with a three-pointer from Brian Amabilino Perez which came via their fourth offensive rebound from the same possession.
The Trailblazers relentless pursuit of every loose ball continued over the remainder of the match with Morrison a key player in that respect. He was on his way to a twelve point and twelve rebound double-double.
He tied the game at 59-all with a pair of free throws and also scored another two points from the field, while Kayne King also produced an important three-point play in that decisive run.
Worthing eventually halted Derby’s scoring blitz with a solitary Jack Sunderland free throw and although they drained another couple of late three-pointers, they couldn’t close the gap to less than three points in the remainder of the match.
Thunder also lost Sunderland, Brendan Okoronkwo and Hosana Kitenge to five fouls in the closing eleven seconds, as they forced Derby to hold their nerve and win the game from the charity stripe.
Not surprisingly, the Trailblazers Head Coach Matt Shaw says he was relieved to hear the final buzzer sound:
“We struggled a little on Sunday. We looked a little tired but then I guess it was our fourth game in nine days so that’s not too surprising. It was pleasing that we were able to grind out a win.
“Worthing played well and it was a tough game from start to finish. We locked in defensively in the fourth and got several stops in a row and that was the key.
“We’ve shown in recent weeks that everyone can contribute in so many ways at both ends. We still have a lot we can improve on because we are a really young team. With every game we play, our players are learning different things about themselves and about each other.
“Overall though, it was another big weekend for us. Two wins out of two puts us into a really nice position going into December. To have lost just one game so far is a great achievement, but ultimately it's worth nothing at this stage, so we must push on.
“Now we have a full two weeks off to prepare for the National Cup Semi-Final against Team Northumbria. The break has come at a nice time in terms of giving us a chance to prepare for that match and giving our guys a little bit of rest after a gruelling start to the season,” he said.
Derby: Lascelles 22, Morrison 12, Ward-Hibbert 12, B. Amabilino Perez 10, Stanley 6, A. Amabilino Perez 5, Taylor 4, King 3, Elliott-Sewell 0, Singleton DNP.
Worthing: Gaines 34, Brown 15, Sunderland 9, Okoronkwo 8, Allen 6, Kitenge 4, Marshall 0, Sealy 0, Wilkins 0.
The Trailblazers now take a two week break from competitive action, prior to their National Cup Semi-Final against Team Northumbria at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre on Sunday 11th December (4:15pm).
The scheduled NBL D1 League match which was due to take place at home to Loughborough Student Riders on Saturday 10th December has been postponed because of the Cup Semi-Final. It will be rearranged in due course.
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Sunday’s reports are summarised below:
D1 Men: Derby Trailblazers 77 – 73 Worthing Thunder
U16 Boys (WM): Derby Trailblazers 84 – 47 Worcester Bears
U14 Girls (North): Lancashire Spinners Bury 66 – 47 Derby Trailblazers