D1: Free-scoring Trailblazers not troubled by Kent’s Crusade
Derby Trailblazers 89 (20, 47, 74)
Kent Crusaders 56 (08, 21, 36)
NBL Men’s Division One
It was a potential skin. Second in the table Derby at home to second from bottom Kent Crusaders, who had just one league win to their name. But the Trailblazers were in no mood to allow any kind of shock result, as had happened the previous weekend away to London Lituanica.
Despite being without the services of club captain Dan Watts and the injured pair of Reiss Harwood and Adria Amabilino Perez, Derby Trailblazers produced an emphatic 89-56 home win, preserving their 100% league record at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall.
The outcome of the game was never in any doubt after the first quarter, after the Trailblazers romped to 20-3 lead after the opening nine minutes.
Chris Taylor was brought into the starting five in the absence of Dan Watts and seized the opportunity to impress, netting Derby’s opening points and adding a three-pointer which prompted an early Kent time-out as they trailed 13-3 after five minutes.
Taylor finished with eleven points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a blocked shot in his best performance to date. Sydney Donaldson led the team with 24 points and seven rebounds, whilst Barish Salih impressed off the bench with 14 points.
“I thought we were excellent from start to finish,” commented Trailblazers Head Coach Matt Shaw.
“We put good defensive pressure on them from the start and we were able to get scores around the basket. It was a strong all round display with everyone getting plenty of court time, which is always useful in the first day of a double header.
“We showed some useful depth and the fact Kent went on to beat London Lituanica the following day proved just what a good win it was for us, particularly as Dan Watts was unavailable,” he said.
That strength in depth meant the Trailblazers were able to ensure none of their starting five played more than 19½ minutes and for the much of the second half, they were able to give extensive minutes to their young teenaged Academy players.
There was even a senior debut for seventeen year old Connor Hersey, who was playing some great defence and more than holding his own against more experienced opponents, before tragedy ended his night early. The youngster had to be helped off court and was taken to hospital, after suffering a nasty looking ankle injury.
By the time Kent called for their second time-out with 6’09” on the clock, Derby had increased their lead to 28-12, off the back of some efficient scoring from Salih, Donaldson and TinTin Watts.
The break in play only seemed to stimulate Derby to pull further ahead, as they closed out the second quarter with a 19-9 run to lead 47-21 at the half time break.
A strong start to the third quarter featured eight quick points for Donaldson, who somehow managed to wrestle down an offensive rebound from one of his own missed shots, score and draw a foul, only to miss the bonus free throw.
Never-the-less, it stretched the lead to thirty points and prompted a third Kent time-out. Once again, it didn’t have the desired results for the visitors, who looked on in disdain as Taylor stole the ball and careered off down court for an uncontested two points.
The lead was up to 66-30 before Hersey’s unfortunate injury forced him off court with 1’37” of the third quarter remaining, but the youngster hadn’t looked out of place in just over three minutes of court time on his senior debut.
There were five quick points for Mitch Nelson late in the third, as Derby stretched their advantage to 74-36 by the final break. The biggest lead came four minutes into the fourth, after the Trailblazers began the quarter with seven straights points. Brian Amabilino Perez struck from outside and in, either side of another score for Taylor, to make it 81-36.
By this stage, Derby were playing out the game with one seventeen year old, three eighteen year olds and a nineteen year old, in a fantastic demonstration of putting faith in their Academy players. Had it not been for the injuries to Adria Amabilino Perez and Hersey, the combination could easily have been younger still.
Not surprisingly, Kent did manage to close the gap slightly over the final six minutes, but the final thirty-three point margin of victory was still Derby’s second biggest win of the league season. More importantly, it gave them the perfect opportunity to rest all of their senior players ahead of a tough local derby the following day.
And while most fans will have gone home remembering the Trailblazers free-scoring offence, credit should also be given to the strength of their defence against Kent’s better players.
Indeed, the trio of Rayell Eytle-Rock, Josh Foulds and Jack Burnell who combined for 53 points in the Crusaders victory over London Lituanica the following day, were held to just fifteen points by Derby on Saturday night.
Derby: Donaldson 24, Salih 14, Taylor 11, B. Amabilino Perez 9, Stanley 8, King 7, Nelson 7, David Watts 5, Calvey 2, Wesselingh 2, Hersey 0.
Kent: Guddemi 16, Burnell 10, Japhet-Mathias 9, Agu 7, Yassi-Pepin 6, Eytle-Rock 3, Taousi 3, Foulds 2.
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There were several other games on Saturday and the full results were as follows:
D1 Men: Derby Trailblazers 89-56 Kent Crusaders
D3 Men (North): Birmingham Mets 92-90 Derby Trailblazers (II) – after overtime (80-80)
U18 Men (NP): Leicester Riders 74-67 Derby Trailblazers
U16 Boys (MDL): Leicester Warriors (II) 45-83 Derby Trailblazers
U14 Boys (NPL): Leeds Force 44-89 Derby Trailblazers
U14 Girls (NDL): Nottingham Wildcats 66-48 Derby Trailblazers
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