D1: Trailblazers grind out gritty victory over Loughborough
Loughborough Student Riders 55 (16, 37, 47)
Derby Trailblazers 58 (19, 36, 42)
NBL Men’s Trophy, Pool 4
After an impressive pre-season against American touring sides, Derby Trailblazers found the going much tougher in their opening National Trophy Pool match against newly promoted Loughborough Student Riders.
There were signs of rustiness from both teams, as the lower than average-shooting percentages clearly demonstrated. Derby shot just 26.8%, while Loughborough managed 41.4%, but thankfully, the Trailblazers were much more dominant on the glass, out-rebounding their opponents 49-39 overall and 19-6 at the offensive end.
That led to Derby scoring twice as many second chance points as Loughborough and they also took much better care of the ball, with seven fewer turnovers. Such factors can often become decisive in tight, defensively orientated games and this was certainly the case here.
The Trailblazers got off to a good start, with Rema Lascelles striking from inside and then out, either side of a Riders turnover, to open up 5-nil lead. Sam Broughton then got the home side off the mark, before Chris Taylor opened his account with a sweet fade away.
Loughborough struck back via a three-pointer from Max Richardson and back-to-back scores from Broughton, as the Riders big man made his presence felt inside the paint.
However, he wasn’t the only big man to impress, as Max Morrison made an immediate impact for Derby when he came off the bench midway through the opening quarter. He scored one of two at the line and then converted a three-point play to put the Trailblazers 12-11 up.
The nip and tuck contest continued with Loughborough pushing briefly ahead, only for Lascelles to make it 16-all, before Taylor nailed a huge three-pointer to make it 19-16 to the Blazers with ninety seconds of the first quarter remaining.
Both sides produced big defensive plays in the closing stages, with Taylor swatting away a shot from Tom Yome, only for Reis Pinnock to similarly deny a three-point attempt from Derby’s Portuguese guard Julio Silva.
A triple from Adria Amabilino Perez gave Derby their biggest lead of the game at 22-16 as the second quarter got underway. Broughton replied with a close-range deuce, before Josh Ward-Hibbert beat the shot clock to score his first points of the game.
The students tied the game at 27-all, before Taylor banked another three-pointer off the glass from way outside the arc. The Riders subsequently edged the remainder of the half, to take a slender 37-36 lead into the locker rooms.
Nothing much went right for either club during the third quarter; just sixteen points were scored by the two teams combined, with the home side edging a turgid ten minutes 10-6, to lead 47-42.
If Derby were to win the game, they needed to step up a gear and find a way to get more of their shots to drop and they did just that. Taylor added another big three-pointer, three out of four shots from the line and some big defensive plays to an already impressive performance.
Oli Stanley scored four of his six points in the final period, including holding his nerve to two of two at the line to tie the scores at 55-all with 1’34” on the clock. It was then that the real drama started, with both sides desperate to grind out a win.
Broughton’s two-point attempt was missed for the students, with Taylor capturing the rebound. Stanley then tried to put Derby ahead for the first time in almost twenty minutes, but Broughton came up with a huge block-shot to deny the basket.
Loughborough grabbed the rebound, but immediately turned the ball over and with only fifty seconds left, Derby called a time-out. The play they devised didn’t come to fruition, as Taylor’s shot fell short, but fortunately Ward-Hibbert was on hand with an offensive put-back to give the Trailblazers a two-point lead with 31 seconds remaining.
Now it was time for the Riders to call time-out. Derby almost came up with a steal as play restarted, but Loughborough were given another sideline possession, with seven less seconds to produce a result.
The home side took their final time-out to plan an attack, but the big man Broughton fumbled the ball, allowing Lascelles to come up with a crucial steal. Loughborough were left with no choice but to foul, sending Taylor to the line, where he sank one of two to put Derby 58-55 ahead with nine seconds left.
With fouls still to give, Brian Amabilino Perez smartly used one to stop the clock and when the ball came back into play, Taylor came up with another steal off Broughton to seal a scrappy victory.
“I was pleased that we eventually found a way to win,” said Head Coach Matt Shaw.
“We dug in and played some excellent defence in the second half, which I think was a real plus, but on the other hand, we didn't find much rhythm on offence and we didn't move the ball very well.
“One of the keys to our success was our offensive rebounding. We didn't shoot well but did a great job getting extra possessions, which proved crucial.
“I think the game shows what a tough league this is going to be this season, if a newly promoted side like Loughborough can be such a handful to deal with,” he said.
Derby’s second match in Pool 4 of the NBL Trophy is at home to Leicester Warriors next Saturday at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre (7:15pm). Warriors also inflicted defeat on Loughborough last weekend, meaning the winners of Saturday’s game will go through to the semi-finals of the reformatted National Trophy competition.
L’boro: Broughton 18, Roberts 12, Noel 8, Richardson 7, Langton 4, Pinnock 4, Yome 2, Cristoffs 0, Delbrich 0, Forsyth A 0, Forsyth D 0, Hemingway 0.
Derby: Taylor 16, Ward-Hibbert 11, Lascelles 9, A. Amabilino Perez 7, Stanley 6, King 2, B. Amabilino Perez 1, Silva 0.
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Here are the full results from the weekend:
D1 Men: Loughborough Student Riders 55-58 Derby Trailblazers
U18M Prem: Derby Trailblazers 109-89 Manchester Giants
U14 Girls: Derby Trailblazers 47-65 City of Sheffield Hatters
U18M Conf: Derby Trailblazers (II) 55-62 Ilkeston Outlaws
U16 Girls: Tameside Royals 115-27 Derby Trailblazers
Game photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/derbytrailblazersbasketball/albums