D1: Derby suffer first defeat of the season against physical Lithuanians
London Lituanica 86 (28, 45, 67)
Derby Trailblazers 78 (12, 31, 53)
NBL Men’s Division One
Derby Trailblazers first taste of defeat came as they lost a tough and physical battle away to London Lituanica in NBL D1, despite a thirty-point haul from Adria Amabilino Perez.
The seventeen year old converted seven out of eight three-point attempts and ten of twelve from the field overall as well as a perfect three of three at the free-throw line, but it counted for nothing.
“Adria was excellent for us,” said Trailblazers Head Coach Matt Shaw.
“He hit some really big shots and helped us get back into the game. It was certainly one of his best performances at this level and capped of a spell of good performances for us,” he said.
Unfortunately, Adria’s team-mates couldn’t replicate the kind of form he produced on the night and Lituanica took advantage as they recorded their most significant win of the season so far.
The good news from Derby’s perspective was that the division’s only other unbeaten team also lost, as Loughborough Student Riders came unstuck on the road at Team Northumbria. Blazers therefore remain second, behind Team Northumbria, but with two games in hand.
Derby didn’t get off to the best of starts at New Vic Sixth Form College, as they struggled to deal with Lituanica’s athleticism. Oli Stanley won the opening tip and sending it down to Josh Ward-Hibbert, who fed the ball to Adria Amabilino Perez for the game’s opening basket.
A reply from Damusis made it 2-2, before consecutive scores from Chris Taylor and Rema Lascelles made it 6-2 to the Trailblazers. However, that would be not only Derby’s biggest lead of the night; it would also be the last time they would hold the lead, as Lituanica began to dominate.
The home side were spirited and well paced on offense, as well as being difficult to break down when the Trailblazers had the ball, because of their strong, physical defence. Much of Derby’s early success this season has come from high percentage shooting, but there were no easy shots to be had in this game.
The Blazers were held scoreless for nearly four minutes late in the first quarter, as Lituanica surged to a 28-12 first quarter advantage.
“We got of to a slow start and struggled to contain their offence early on,” admitted Head Coach Matt Shaw.
“There have a couple of times earlier this season where we’ve dug ourselves a hole away from home, but prior to this game, we’ve always managed to get back into the game and come away with the win. Unfortunately, we didn't quite manage it this time,” he said.
Lituanica reached their biggest lead of the game early in the second quarter, after two quick scores from Guzys and Vaupsas stretched their lead to 32-12, before Derby gradually began to fight back.
Three-pointers from Taylor and Lascelles were followed by three consecutive scores from Oli Stanley, but the home side were also scoring freely against a Trailblazers defence which seemed to lack its normal high intensity.
Consequently, when Adria Amabilino Perez concluded the first half with second triple of the game, Derby were still trailing 45-31 at the break.
The Trailblazers rallied after the break and began to make some inroads against the deficit. A big dunk from Taylor gave hope and moments later, Adria Amabilino Perez sank three from three at the line, after being fouled whilst shooting from outside the arc.
However, every time Derby managed to cut the gap just slight, the Lithuanian players responded and despite Adria Amablino Perez sinking another pair of three-pointers, the gap remained at fourteen points going into the final ten minutes.
Derby knew they needed a big push if they were to keep their unbeaten record intact and they gave it their best shot. Stepping up at both ends of the court, they produced some huge plays on offence and raised their defensive efforts to prevent the home side from getting any easy baskets.
By the fourth minute of the final quarter, the lead was down to seven points. It remained about that margin over the next few minutes as the two teams exchanged baskets, until Ward-Hibbert banked a three-pointer off the backboard to make it a four point game with just a couple of minutes left.
Unfortunately, the unforced errors returned thereafter, including an unnecessary technical foul. Coach Matt Shaw called a timeout to try and refocus his players, but the home team had already done enough to seal the win and they completed a series of shots from the free-throw line to secure an 86-78 victory.
“We gave ourselves a chance when we got it back to four points, but we couldn’t quite pull it out of the bag,” admitted Head Coach Matt Shaw.
“Winning on the road in this league is really difficult and I think a lot of teams will find Lituanica hard to play against at their place, especially if they play like that. Credit to them though, because they played well and they produced some very good basketball at times,” he said.
Lituanica: Guzys 29, Petraitis 28, Damusis 11, M. Adomaitis 7, Vaupsas 6, Neverauskas 5, Kazlauskas 0, P. Adomaitis DNP, Grybauskas DNP, Visockas DNP.
Derby: A. Amabilino Perez 30, Lascelles 12, Ward-Hibbert 11, Stanley 9, Taylor 9, Morrison 4, B. Amabilino Perez 2, King 1.
Derby bounced back from defeat the following day, with an 86-72 home win over Manchester Magic in the Quarter Finals of the National Cup. Details of this game are provided in a separate match report.
The Trailblazers are back in NBL D1 action next Saturday afternoon, when they travel to Lancashire Spinners (5:45pm), before returning home to take on Worthing Thunder at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon (4:15pm).
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Saturday’s results are summarised below:
D1 Men: London Lituanica 86 – 78 Derby Trailblazers
D4 Men (Mids): Sheffield Sabres 74-77 Derby Trailblazers
U18 Men (Prem): Derby Trailblazers 102 – 85 Stoke on Trent Knights
U16 Boys (WM): Ilkeston Outlaws 44 – 104 Derby Trailblazers
U14 Boys (M1): Derby Trailblazers 67 – 47 Leicester Warriors II