D1: Trailblazers aim to consolidate hold over second place in double-header
For the final time this season, Derby Trailblazers face back-to-back games and the combination of fixtures involved couldn’t be more difficult, as they aim to secure the runners up spot in NBL division one for the second year in succession.
The Trailblazers get the weekend underway with their most arduous road trip of the season, away to Worthing Thunder on Saturday night (7:30pm), before returning to face Manchester Magic in the Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall on Sunday afternoon (4:15pm).
Magic will arrive in Derby as champions, providing they beat Bradford Dragons at home on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Trailblazers were aided in their quest for second place on Thursday night, as Essex Leopards 76-74 away win over Reading left the Rockets on six defeats and two points behind Derby.
And whilst the race for second place is still fairly complicated with four teams in contention, Derby at least know that one win from their final three games would guarantee a top four finish and home court advantage for the quarter finals of the playoffs.
Worthing and Manchester are the only two sides who have scored more than seventy-two points against Derby in the league this season, a fact which isn’t lost on the Trailblazers Assistant Coach Steve Baxter, who says this will be a hugely difficult weekend for the club:
“Worthing is never an easy place to go because it’s a long and tiring journey and despite their 7-16 league record, they aren’t a poor team by any stretch, particularly at home. I think nine of their sixteen losses in the league have been by ten points or less and they have recently run the teams either side of us in the league very close on their home court.
“Despite not having much to play for in terms of league or playoff places, I am sure Coach Hildreth will have them fired up to produce a strong showing in front of their fans. It is one of the better places in the league to play in terms of crowd levels and game day set up and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“For us the last three games are really important for a number of reasons. Firstly, they will go some way to dictating the final league positions and who gets home-court advantage in the playoffs, but secondly, because we want to try and build some form and momentum going into the post season.
“Worthing are a primarily a guard orientated team. They are quick and they shoot the ball well, so we have been working on some specifics to counter some of their strengths.
“Their big man James Crambonne has had a huge impact in his first season, leading the league in blocked shots as well as being third in both points per games and rebounds,” he said.
When the two sides met at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall in December, the Trailblazers ground out a 94-92 win, after David TinTin Watts led the way with twenty-four points. Tip off at Worthing Leisure Centre on Saturday is at 7:30pm.
Derby then head home to face Manchester Magic on Sunday afternoon, still looking for their first win over the side which looks certain to be crowned NBL division one champions.
Magic have had another incredible season, with only one league defeat so far and an unbeaten record in all competitions which stretches back to November 29th, when they went down 77-79 at home to London Lituanica.
Since then, they have won every game by an average of almost sixteen points, so Derby have an incredibly difficult task ahead of them if they’re to maintain their standing as the only club with an unbeaten home league record . To make matters worse, the fixture comes on the back of that lengthy trip to Worthing, which Coach Baxter says will only hinder the Trailblazers chances:
“Manchester are in a phenomenally rich vein of form. They don’t have many weaknesses and are without doubt the most consistent team in the league by far. They never seem to have big periods when they aren’t playing well, but we don’t fear them, because we believe that like all teams, they are beatable.
“We have had the lead against them in the latter stages of both of our previous games against them this season, but ran out of steam on both occasions. They are the only team in the Division One that we haven’t beaten so far, so we would dearly like to change that situation.
“We will need to do a better job on our former team-mate Lee Goldsbrough this time around. He really hurt us in the last game, but what makes Manchester a very good team is that they have seven or eight players who can step up and get the job done if needed. Stopping, or at least limiting the effectiveness of everyone, every game, isn’t easy.
“However, I would like to think we’re also a team with strong depth and hopefully we can be at full strength against Manchester for the first time this season. We have to play well individually and collectively as a unit if we’re to be successful. That’s been the blueprint for our achievements so far this season,” he said.
Derby’s home game against Manchester Magic is a 4:15pm tip-off on Sunday afternoon at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall, Noel-Baker School, Alvaston. Supporters are also invited to join the team after the game at The Lodge Flaming Grill Pub on Grange Road in Alvaston.
The full line up of game for the weekend is as follows:
D1 Men: Worthing Thunder v Derby Trailblazers; 7:30pm at Worthing Leisure Centre
U18 Men (NPL): Cheshire Wire v Derby Trailblazers; 12 Noon at Priestly College
U14 Boys (MDL): Shropshire Warriors v Derby Trailblazers; 12:00pm at Sport TCAT
D1 Men: Derby Trailblazers v Manchester Magic; 4:15pm at Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall
D3 North: Sefton Stars v Derby Trailblazers II; 4:00pm at South Sefton College
Live updates for most games can be found by following www.facebook.com/derbytrailblazersclub or @derbyblazers on Twitter. All the latest news is also online at www.derbytrailblazers.com
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