D1: Derby overcome slow start to overpower Leopards and stay top


Derby Trailblazers - 83 (21, 38, 64)
Essex Leopards - 70 (21, 33, 46)
NBL Men’s Division One

Derby Trailblazers suffered an unusually slow start to this game and therefore had to dig very deep to protect their unbeaten start to the season.

Josh -upTrailing 9-2 after three minutes and then 16-5 at the mid-point of the first quarter, they needed a response and it was a pair of three-pointers from Chris Taylor and Adria Amabilino Perez which halted the Leopards early runs of 9-0 and 7-0.

After an Essex time-out at 4’56”, the visitors briefly moved 18-8 ahead after an offensive put-back from veteran forward Mike Martin, but it was Derby who would dominate the closing stages of the first quarter.

They began with another triple from Taylor and after Essex replied with a basket from Martin and a solitary free throw from Ladi Brown, it was time for Josh Ward-Hibbert to take the game over in a dramatic three minute spell.

The Trailblazers leading score had been uncharacteristically quiet in the opening seven minutes, but he made amends as he went on the rampage with ten consecutive points.

He started with a three-pointer, followed it up with a coast to coast run for two. Next came a spectacular dunk and he finished the run off with a steal and a three-point play, as he converted the bonus point following a foul.

All of that took the scores to 21-all by the end of the first quarter and set Ward-Hibbert up for another top-scoring game. He finished with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and a blocked shot, as he continues to dominate in NBL D1.

Taylor added 14 points and three rebounds, while Rema Lascelles had eleven points, ten rebounds, five assists and four steals. Derby also had double-point contributions from the Amabilino Perez twins and Max Morrison, whose five of five field goals, coupled with six rebounds and three blocks helped him to be ranked as the Trailblazers most efficient player.

For Leopards, Martin impressed with eighteen points and 8 rebounds, but he received little support from his team-mates, with Brown (11), Jamie Hayes (10) and Dougie Bennett (10), being the only other players to make double figures.

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After that opening quarter, Hayes began the second with a three-pointer for the visitors, but it was immediately cancelled out by a Ward-Hibbert’s second triple of the night. David Ajumobi then made one of a two at the line, before a triple from Brian Amabilino Perez began a 10-2 Derby run.

Leopards briefly cut the gap back to 33-32, but the Trailblazers had the momentum going into the break. After both sides split a pair of shots from the line, a basket from Brian Amabilino Perez was followed up by a steal and a slam dunk from Taylor to give Derby a 38-33 half-time lead.

After the break, the Blazers began the third quarter with a jump shot from Taylor, a steal from Oli Stanley and a jump shot from Adria Amabilino Perez, prompting an early time-out from the visitors. It had zero effect, as a Lascelles drive to the hoop was followed by a jam from Taylor to put Derby 46-33 ahead.

Martin eventually ended the Leopards scoring drought, over four and half minutes since they had last troubled the scorers, later in the second quarter. It was the start of a 6-2 burst for the visitors, but Derby responded with back-to-back triples from Adria Amabilino Perez and Lascelles.

Martin again snapped that sequence, but the Blazers went on another big run in the remainder of the quarter, outscoring Essex 10-5 to lead 64-46 at the final break.

The biggest lead of the night came as Kayne King nailed a three-pointer to make it 72-52 with 7’32” remaining, but the game was far from over.

Leopards suddenly produced a 12-0 burst from nowhere, holding Derby scoreless for over two minutes. It took a time-out and the determination of Morrison to refocus the Trailblazers and ensure their sixth league win of the season.

Morrison hit six points in the final four minutes, with two of those baskets coming as he converted offensive tip-ins after missed shots from Lascelles and Brian Amabilino Perez. In between times, he also blocked an attempt from Brown to keep Leopards at bay.

A triple from Brian Amabilino Perez marked the end of Derby’s scoring, before Leopards split two pairs of shots from successive visits to the line, but it counted for nothing, as they remain winless and joint-bottom of the NBL D1 league table.

Trailblazers Head Coach Matt Shaw was pleased by the fighting characteristics shown by his team as they sought to maintain their unbeaten start:

“We started a little slowly and dug ourselves a hole in the first quarter. It was pleasing the way we re grouped - we had patches were we looked really good.

“Credit to Essex though, because they played a lot better than they had shown in their recent games we had watched on film. Once Bode [Adeluola] gets back to full fitness, I think they will be a team who'll pick up a lot of wins. They made on work and forced us to make more turnovers than we usually do.

“In the second half I felt we did a much better job on the glass. We had more second chance points. It’s also pleasing to have six guys in double figures. It shows we have multiple guys who can produce points and that makes it really tough for teams to defend against us,” he said.

Derby: Ward-Hibbert 16, Taylor 14, Lascelles 11, A. Amabilino Perez 11, Morrison 10, B. Amabilino Perez 11, Stanley 6, King 3, Elliott-Sewell DNP.

Leopards: Martin 18, Brown 11, Bennett 10, Hayes 10, Ajumobi 7, Tabanar 6, Hitchman 3, Adeluola 2, Scott-Robinson 2, Lewis 1, Oyelese 0, Roberts 0.


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Derby are back in NBL D1 action next Saturday evening, when they host Leicester Warriors at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre (7:15pm).

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The weekend results are summarised below:
D1 Men: Derby Trailblazers 83 – 70 Essex Leopards
D4 Men (Mids): Kings Lynn Furry 70 – 55 Derby Trailblazers II
U18 Men (Prem): Manchester Magic 79 – 73 Derby Trailblazers
U18 Men (Mids): Derby Trailblazers II 71-72 – Leicester Warriors
U16 Boys (WM): Derby Trailblazers 116 – 48 Bournvillle Bears
U16 Girls (Nth Reg): Derby Trailblazers 51-54 Barrow Thorns
U16 Girls (Cup R2): Derby Trailblazers 23 – Nottingham Wildcats 106
U14 Boys (Mids 1): Leicester Warriors 79 – 77 Derby Trailblazers
U14 Girls (North): Lancashire Spinners 36 – 65 Derby Trailblazers


Game photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/derbytrailblazersbasketball/albums