D1: Trailblazers face crucial double-header weekend
If Derby Trailblazers are maintain their grasp of second spot in NBL division one, there is no room for error this weekend, as they face yet another double-header weekend.
First up, on Saturday night is a trip to Team Northumbria, who sit third in the table, but who are level in terms of games lost and who have two games in hand. Then on Sunday afternoon, the Trailblazers are home to struggling Westminster Warriors (2:15pm), a side desperate to win, as they fight to stave off relegation.
Warriors also face a double-header, as they play host to Bradford Dragons on Saturday night.
With four of Derby’s last seven games taking place on the road, they desperately need to improve their away form, starting with the trip Northumbria, who are best placed to challenge the Trailblazers for second place. So far, Derby have won just five of nine games on the road, in stark contrast to their perfect 10-0 home record.
In looking ahead to the weekend double-header, the Trailblazers Assistant Coach Steve Baxter says it’s important to learn from the mistakes made in last Saturday’s defeat to Essex Leopards, as well as continuing to make improvements as they have done all season long.
“The team we are now is no comparison to how we were back in October/November. Both individually and collectively we have developed immensely and one result does not change that.
“Bizarrely narrow losses are often tougher to stomach than big losses as you think of every individual error or missed shot that may have made the difference. Having said that, last week’s loss has not dampened spirits among the players or coaches any and if anything it has made us more determined to get back to winning ways this weekend.
“Northumbria will be a tough opponent on Saturday. Along with ourselves, they are unbeaten at home in the league. Coach Steutel has once again produced a squad capable of beating any team in the league, whilst also making his own team very difficult to beat.
“They are shooting the ball phenomenally well from three point range and I think that is testament to the unselfish team basketball they play where they create good opportunities for each other.
“In a team of very good players, Lewis Champion is the one who stands out as being the premier player on his team. He has raised his game another notch this season and has been keen to their success so far this season.
“We must however, be careful not to focus just on one or two individuals. When we played them in the National Trophy earlier this season, they were missing four of their likely starting five players, but they still beat us, proving they’re a very deep team which doesn’t overly rely on certain individuals,” he said.
Saturday’s trip to Northumbria is a 6:30pm tip-off at Sport Central in Newcastle.
The weekend’s second game is at home to Westminster Warriors, who started the season in great form, topping the Southern Group of the Men’s National Trophy, with a 5-1 record. Their only defeat came at home to Reading Rockets, but aside from a blow out against Kent, their other four wins were by an average of just 4½ points.
For whatever reason, that winning form hasn’t continued into the league season and at the time of writing, they had only picked up two league wins, leaving them battling at the wrong end of the league table.
On their day, they can take pretty much any team the full distance, as they proved against Derby in November, when the Trailblazers needed overtime to force a 104-101 away win. Assistant Coach Steve Baxter is keen to avoid a high scoring repeat, but says that’s not something they’ve focused on too much just yet:
“As with all double-headers, we won’t have thought too much on Westminster until after we have played Northumbria on Saturday. That’s not to say we are taking our eye off them or being complacent regarding our chances of winning; far from it.
“Like we have said all season, we have to take things one game at a time. Westminster will be desperate to get wins under their belt as they fight to stay in division one, while we need every win possible to keep us as high up the table as we can get.
“They have a number of talented players, some of which have been with them since their days in Division two and three. We need to focus on a couple of things that we have perhaps not been so well in recent weeks, namely defensive rebounding and limiting our turnovers. If we can do those two things better than we have, we can more than match most, if not all teams in this league.
“Hopefully we will be at full fitness, minus Reiss who is out longer term, and we can make amends for last week’s defeat,” he said.
Sunday’s game at home to Westminster is a 2:15pm tip-off at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall at Noel-Baker School and supporters are also invited to join the team afterwards at The Lodge Flaming Grill on Grange Road.
The full line up of game for the weekend is as follows:
D1 Men: Team Northumbria v Derby Trailblazers; 6:30pm at Sport Central, Newcastle
D3 Men: Leeds Force Academy v Derby Trailblazers II; 5pm at Leeds Met University
U18 Prem: Derby Trailblazers v Northants Titans; 2pm at Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall
U14 Boys (PN): Derby Trailblazers v Mansfield Giants; 12 Noon at Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall
D1 Men: Derby Trailblazers v Westminster Warriors; 2:15pm at Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall
U14 Boys (PN): Manchester Giants v Derby Trailblazers; 2pm at Oldham Sixth Form College
U14 Boys (MDL): Derby Trailblazers II v Worcester Bears; 12:15pm at Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall
U14 Girls (NDL): Lancashire Spinners v Derby Trailblazers; 12:30pm at Elton High School
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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