D1: Trailblazers aim to continue their winning run away to Bradford & home to London Lituanica
Derby Trailblazers enter the final weekend of January, knowing they will have to be at the top of their game if they’re to finish the month with four wins from five starts in NBL division one. The Trailblazers head to Bradford on Saturday, before welcoming London Lituanica to the Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall on Sunday, in what assistant Coach Steve Baxter expects to be another very tough double-header:
“We expect Bradford to be much better than they were when played them last in October. They were vastly understrength back then, but more recently seem to have most of their first team available and free from injury.
“They have brought in Ricky Fetske as their second overseas player and he has a few years’ experience of playing in England now. He gives them some much needed height and will provide a rebounding and low post presence which they missed early on.
“Since Christmas Rihard Sulcs has also returned to the team following knee surgery and that’s a big boost for them. He is their longest serving player and is a hard-nosed guy that knows how to get the job done.
“In addition, Nick Moore continues to have a very impressive rookie season for them. He’s an explosive player, with good strength and athleticism. We need to try and make him catch the ball in areas outside his comfort zone and make sure we box him out well as he can be an aggressive offensive rebounder.”
Derby remain second going into the weekend, while Bradford are 11th, with only three win from fourteen starts, but Baxter insists that’s a false position for them to be in:
“Forget their league position; I have no doubt Bradford will improve over the rest of the season. Despite all their injury problems early on they remained competitive and Coach Chris Mellor will have them motivated for us, so we need to be prepared for a battle,” he said.
Saturday’s game is a 6:15pm tip-off at Bradford College Sports Centre and there’s a quick turnaround after it, as the Trailblazers return home to face London Lituanica on Sunday afternoon.
Lituanica have made a great start to their first season at this level and have built a reputation for being hard to beat, particularly at their home court, where Derby will go next weekend.
They are currently sixth in the league table, with an 8-4 record, but have to travel to Tees Valley the night before facing Derby. There’s no doubt they could be higher in the table too, had it not been for some narrow defeats and the fact they have played less games than either Reading and Hemel, both of whom are above London Lituanica, despite having lost more games.
Preparing to face the all-Lithuanian side for the first time in division one hasn’t been an easy task; Assistant Coach Steve Baxter says there’s a distinct lack of information about the club which is somewhat frustrating:
“They are not a team we know a huge amount about, although we have watched all the available video of their games we have managed to find. They started the season on fire, winning their first six league games but their personnel are mainly unknown to us, other than guard Lukas Volskis who we have matched up against playing for various southern teams in the last few years.
“Their standout player is undoubtedly Ausridas Petraitis, who is statistically the most efficient player in the league so far this season. He leads our division in both points and rebounds, so he will be an obvious focal point for us.
“Any doubting their quality needs only to look at one result, namely that they are the only team to beat Manchester over the Magic’s last 23 games. We expect them to be the kind of team where most players can do a bit of everything. They are used to playing together, as quite a few of their players have been around for a few years now, helping their meteoric rise up the different leagues.
“For us, it’s an opportunity to keep our good form up. We are unbeaten at home in the league and did another excellent job last weekend against some high scoring players. Before the game, we identified that we needed to maintain the kind of defense we have become accustomed to on our home floor and that will be no different this weekend.
“Both Coach Shaw and I have said it a few times already, but we really are taking things one game at a time. The league is certainly starting to take shape, but things can change quickly for any team that collects either few good or bad results in a hurry. We want to make sure our team continues to work together and keep winning as many games as possible,” he said.
Sunday’s game at home to London Lituanica is a 2:15pm tip off at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall. Supporters are also invited to join the team after the game at The Lodge Flaming Grill Pub, on Grange Road in Alvaston.
There’s a full schedule of games this weekend, with only the D3 Men’s team not in action:
D1 Men: Bradford Dragons v Derby Trailblazers; 6:15pm at Bradford College Sports Hall.
U18 Men (NP): Sporting Club Albion (WB) v Derby Trailblazers; 4pm at Sandwell Academy
U16 Boys (MDL): Leicester Riders v Derby Trailblazers; 2:30pm at Leicester Community Arena
U14 Boys (NP): Cheshire Wire v Derby Trailblazers; 2:45pm at Warrington Ball Hall
U14 Boys (MDL): Ilkeston Outlaws v Derby Trailblazers II; 1:30pm at Broomfield Hall
U14 Girls (NDL): Derby Trailblazers v Manchester Mystics; 12 Noon at Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall
D1 Men: Derby Trailblazers v London Lituanica; 2:15pm at Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall
Men’s NEDL: Gateshead Phoenix v Derby Trailblazers III; 3:30m at Gateshead Leisure Centre
U14 Boys (NP): Derby Trailblazers v Manchester Giants; 12:15pm at Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall
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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