D1: Need for victory suddenly becomes serious for the Trailblazers 02/04/17
With the regular basketball season now over, Derby Trailblazers need to win has suddenly become a lot more important, as defeat will spell the end of their season. That’s the reality of the play-offs, which offer the top eight clubs the chance for a final crack at lifting some silverware.
For Derby, three teams still have that opportunity, with the D1 Men at home to Loughborough Student Riders, the U18 Men at home to Durham Wildcats and the U16 Boys on the road at Sheffield Junior Sharks.
Regardless of what happens to the Trailblazers Senior Men on Sunday afternoon, it will definitely be the final home game of what’s been a roller-coaster season, as the winners will travel to either Team Northumbria or Hemel Storm for their semi-final, before potentially contesting the play-off final in Manchester in three weeks’ time.
Derby have won two of the three meetings between the two clubs so far this season, with the league matches both going in favour of the away team by the same margin of eleven points.
The Trailblazers' Assistant Coach/Performance Analyst has been reflecting on the last seven months and also looking ahead to what’s still to come in this eventful season:
“A total of 19 different players have made appearances for the side this year with only Kayne King, Chris Taylor and Max Morrison appearing in every game. Trying to find stability and continuity on a week by week basis has been very difficult, but the underrated depth of the club’s programme has shone through, with players rarely looking out of their depth despite playing at the highest levels.
“To finish fourth in a highly competitive league whilst appearing in two semi-finals is a testament to this group’s desire and willingness to just play through adversity and not get too caught up with the ups and downs of a season.
“There is no secret about the playoffs. It’s a simple case of either playing another game next week or another game in nearly six months’ time. The aim now is to put together a three-game winning streak, but to do that you have to win you first game and we know we’ll be facing a strong Loughborough side on Sunday.
“Playing the same team for a third time in three weeks is certainly a unique situation and both teams have no excuses for not knowing each other well. It almost becomes a bit of a chess match in parts, with teams making small adjustments and the team which responds quickest will gain a slight advantage before the next adjustment is made.
“Last Sunday, when we made mistakes, we were punished and at times it hurt us for three consecutive possessions. That’s something we have to realise isn’t acceptable at this stage of the season.
“I think we were too passive at times last weekend and shooting only six free throws would seem to back that up as well. We have played some of our best basketball when we’ve been aggressive and moved the ball effectively with good spacing and we have certainly emphasised that this week in practice.
“At various times this season, and especially with the players who weren’t here twelve months ago, we’ve discussed the kind of atmosphere we had at Noel Baker for the playoffs last year.
“It was certainly a very high benchmark and we have got close to it a few times this year, but hopefully we can replicate that once more this afternoon. It’s always great playing with a noisy home support behind you and we really want to produce a final home victory for everyone to savour over the close season,” he said.
Tip-off for the NBL D1 Play-Off quarter-final tie against Loughborough Student Riders is at 3:30pm on Sunday afternoon, at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre, Noel-Baker Academy, Derby.
Two of Derby’s junior development teams are also involved in the play-offs on Saturday. The U18 Premier Men are at home to Durham Wildcats (12:15pm), while the U16 Boy travel to Sheffield Junior Sharks (12:20pm).
The full line up of game for the weekend is as follows:
U18 Men: Derby Trailblazers v Durham Wildcats; 12:15pm at Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre
U16 Boys: Sheffield Junior Sharks v Derby Trailblazers; 12:20pm at All Saints Sports Centre, Sheffield
D1 Men: Derby Trailblazers v Loughborough Student Riders; 3:30pm at Clarence Wiggins SC