D1: Trailblazers come from behind to win battle against Warriors
Derby Trailblazers 65 (12, 29, 43)
Leicester Warriors 54 (15, 32, 45)
Derby Trailblazers saved the best for last, as they came from behind to beat Leicester Warriors and book their place in the semi-finals of NBL Men’s National Trophy.
The typically feisty local derby saw five lead changes and two tied scores. The visitors led for just over twenty-five minutes, but a stunning 22-9 final quarter meant it was Derby who led when it mattered most.
Chris Taylor and Josh Ward-Hibbert finished as joint top scorers, but it was the performance of Max Morrison off then bench that really grabbed the eye as he came up a string of important plays at both ends of the court.
With ten points, fourteen rebounds, two blocks, one steal and one assist, the former Team Birmingham Elite forward was statistically the most efficient of the Trailblazers players on court and had a Most Valuable Player award been made, he would certainly have been the recipient.
It was former Derby player Leome Francis who got Warriors off the mark, sinking a pair of free throws after being fouled by Rema Lascelles.
Brian Amabilino Perez could only make one of two in response, before Durrell Kelly struck from downtown and Rodney Sanders made another pair from the line to put the visitors 7-1 up after only two minutes.
However, the Trailblazers fought back strongly, as Taylor found Oli Stanley under the basket for an easy score and then converted a three-pointer of his own. Lascelles then drove through traffic to make it 8-7 with 6’04” on the clock.
The pendulum then swung back in favour of Leicester, who score found eight consecutive points, only for Derby to trim the gap to 12-15 by the end of the first, as Morrison made one of two and Taylor sank another huge three-pointer.
The Warriors once again opened up an eight point lead midway through the second, as they struggled to contain Francis inside. However, a 9-2 run followed, cutting the gap to 29-30, thanks to some strong plays from Stanley, Morrison, Ward-Hibbert and Taylor.
Leicester then ended the period with a two from another former Derby player, Kieran Mills, to lead by three at the break.
Whatever the Trailblazers coaches said during the break certainly seemed to fire their team up defensively, which in turn led to much improved offence.
Ward-Hibbert made one from the line and then followed it up with a triple from the corner. Taylor then found Brian Amabilino Perez for another three-pointer, before Morrison bagged consecutive field goals and one from the line.
In between times, the former Birmingham big man was hovering up rebounds for fun, as Leicester missed shot after shot. It took a time-out to refocus the visitors and they did so in style, answering Derby’s 9-0 run with a 13-0 burst which included a trio of three-pointers, to lead 45-41.
Taylor then trimmed the gap with 2/2 at the line, as Derby went into the final quarter trailing by two points and knowing they needed a big final quarter if they were to book their place in the semi-final of the Men’s National Trophy.
After Francis initially doubled Leicester’s lead, the Trailblazers got the response they needed. A step up in their defensive intensity for the second time in the match led to another 9-nil run followed, as Leicester were held scoreless for four minutes.
Francis eventually broke the run, with one of two from the line, before former Derby guard Carl Pearson managed his only score of the night.
That took the score to 52-50, but by now, the Trailblazers could sense victory and spurred on by a loud and raucous home crowd, they set about sealing the win. A three-pointer from Brian Amabilino Perez was followed by one of two from the free throw for the dual national teenager.
Francis replied with a floater, only for Taylor to knock down his third three-pointer of the night. A Leicester time-out resulted in two quick points, but Ward-Hibbert simply took over.
He scored three back-to-back baskets in the final ninety seconds, to give Derby a 65-54 win, which takes their all-time record over the Warriors to an incredible 23-3 in all competitions.
“It's always a real battle against the Warriors and I was delighted how the guys responded,” said Trailblazers Head Coach Matt Shaw.
“We tried to match their hustle and effort plays and for the most part did so well. We had to scrap especially hard on the glass and although I think the game shows we still have a lot of work to do, it's going to be fun seeing how this group of guys develop.
“Obviously the forth quarter was huge for us. It's certainly a positive factor that we've manage to come from behind in back or back games in the fourth quarter, but as coaches, we'd be a lot happier if we are leading after three quarters in future games,” he said.
Derby: Taylor 16, Ward-Hibbert 16, B. Amabilino Perez 11, Morrison 10, Stanley 8, Lascelles 2, King 2, A. Amabilino Perez 0, Silva 0, Elliott-Sewell DNP.
Leicester: Francis 17, Mills 10, Sanders 8, Willan 8, Jabby 6, Kelly 3, Pearson 2, Bethune 0, Lewis 0, Weaver 0, Osman DNP.
Here are the full results from the weekend:
D1 Men: Derby Trailblazers 65-54 Leicester Warriors
U18M Prem: Cheshire Phoenix Juniors 102-59 Derby Trailblazers
U14 Boys (M1): Leicester Warriors (II) v Derby Trailblazers - postponed
U14 Girls: Derby Trailblazers 93-37 Stockport Lapwings (1)
D4 Men (Mids): Derby Trailblazers (II) 96-57 Birmingham Mets (II)
U18 Men (Conf): Derby Trailblazers (II) 84-65 GAC Coventry Tornadoes
U16 Boys (WM): Derby Trailblazers 77-34 City of Birmingham (II)
U14 Girls (North): Tameside Junior Royals 39-76 Derby Trailblazers