D1: Trailblazers save best for last, snapping champions’ 19 game streak
Derby Trailblazers - 72 (17, 37, 57)
Manchester Magic - 68 (25, 30, 52)
NBL Men’s Division 1
Talk about saving the best for last! Derby Trailblazers did just that, as they ended the newly crowned division one champions winning streak, which stretched back to November 29th last year.
Manchester had clinched the league title the previous night, but Derby ensured their celebrations were short lived, as they recorded their first win over the Magic this season.
The 72-68 victory represents Manchester’s lowest points-total of the season, while ensuring the Blazers are the only club to complete their regular season home games with a 100% record.
“What a weekend it’s been for the club,” exclaimed Trailblazers Head Coach Matt Shaw!
“I’m so pleased for our lads because to finish the home league campaign by beating Manchester and thereby end the regular season with an unbeaten record is a fantastic achievement.
“With so many teams playing twice across the two days, league positions were changing throughout the weekend. Several results went our way, meaning we’ve now secured a home quarter final and if we can clinch second spot, it would potentially mean home games in both the quarter and semi-finals,” he said.
For the second day running, Derby went into the game without the injured trio of David TinTin Watts, Mitch Nelson and Reiss Harwood, but were also without George Calvey and Kayne King, both of who had dropped down to the division three squad, to help their injury crisis.
“Sunday was a real gutsy performance from our guys and I thought it was phenomenal how the eight guys we had managed to dig so deep and produce a huge win,” said Shaw.
That ‘gutsy’ effort resulted in five players ending up in double figures, although no individual netted more than fourteen points. Dan Watts and Sydney Donaldson both produced that total, with Chris Taylor adding twelve and the Amabilino Perez twins Brian and Adria each having ten points.
By contrast, Manchester had just three players in double-figures, with Ellis Cooper restricted to seventeen points, Alvaro Alarcon Lizaur finishing with thirteen and Kayin Darbey 10.
Manchester had the better of the opening exchanges in front of a large, but surprisingly quiet crowd at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall. As a result, the visitors were 11-22 ahead after the opening eight minutes and it looked like it could be a long afternoon for the injury hit Trailblazers.
Derby managed to trim the gap to 17-25 by the first buzzer, but there was still no sign of what was to come early in the second period. An appeal to the fans to ‘do their bit’ to help the Trailblazers preserve the only unbeaten home record in the league had a dramatic effect, as the crowd suddenly went wild and Derby’s players responded in style.
From 20-29 down, they almost held Magic scoreless for the remainder of the quarter, with a 17-1 run which was spectacular to watch. It began with a three-pointer from Adria Amabilino Perez, whose twin brother Brian supplied the assist and following a Manchester time-out, Brian produced a score of his own.
Manchester’s Frank Garcia Garrido then converted one of two at the line, before a three-point play from Taylor was followed up with a triple from Adria Amabilino. Another Magic time-out failed to stop the rout, with Taylor restarting the game with a breakaway slam dunk.
Donaldson then stole the ball and missed his shot, but it didn’t matter, as Watts was on hand for an offensive put-back. Taylor then ended the quarter with a pair of free-throws, to set up a 37-30 lead at the half time break.
It was fair to say the champions didn’t seem to know what had hit them, particularly when Derby began the third with a pair of three-pointers from Donaldson and Watts. They came either side of a hook-shot from former Trailblazers centre Lee Goldsbrough and helped to open up a 43-32 lead.
Manchester rallied briefly through Cooper, successfully cutting the gap to six points, before five straight points from Taylor re-established Derby’s eleven point advantage, at 52-41 with fourteen minutes remaining.
A potentially disastrous situation followed, as Taylor and Brian Amabilino were both called for their respective fourth fouls in the space of thirty seconds. It meant the Trailblazers would have to dig deeper still, if they were to get that victory over the only team they were yet to beat.
The nerves jangled over the next few minutes, as Magic cut the gap to 52-57 by the end of the third. However, a three-pointer from Wesselingh early in the fourth put Derby 66-56 ahead with only five and half minutes remaining.
Manchester then suddenly stepped up a gear, forcing a number of defensive errors, as well as getting their own shots to drop with increased regularity. Over the next five minutes, they whittled away at the gap and a triple from Garcia Garrido coupled with a three-point play from Cooper saw them tie the game at 68-all with 42 seconds left.
Dan Watts then made the home fans sweat by missing a pair of free-throws, but strong defence meant Magic were unable to score. Watts then made amends by grabbing a potentially crucial rebound with eight seconds on the clock, forcing Manchester to foul.
With Magic already in the penalty, the Derby captain was sent to the line and this time there was no mistake, as he sank both shots to make it 70-68.
Magic called their final time-out, using it to set up a three-point attempt from Jack Minister, but the Spaniards effort was well off target and the ball was knocked out of bounds by the visitors. That meant Derby could request time-out, after which Manchester were quick to foul and Donaldson kept his cool to seal the Trailblazers most impressive victory of the season.
“We didn't start the game well, but a strong second quarter got the crowd behind us and we started to thrive off that energy,” said Head Coach Matt Shaw.
“We certainly weren't at out smoothest on offence, but we found ways to get the job done. I thought this was a real team performance, especially on defence, where we challenged everything and collectively battled for rebounds and loose balls. We got a lot of deflections and forced turnovers which made a big difference.
“Down the stretch we began to play not to lose, rather than trying to win and that coupled with the foul trouble we were in helped get Manchester right back in it. Full credit must therefore go to Dan and Sydney for holding their nerve to seal the win from the foul line on our last two offences.
“At the same time, we protected the paint well on our last two defences and forced perimeter looks which were heavily contested. Getting those stops was obviously critical too.
“For us, being at home [in the play-offs] is massive. We are 13-0 in the league at home. We are the only unbeaten home team in the league and we have to say a massive thank-you to our fans, who were epic against Manchester,” he said.
Derby will close out the regular season with a trip to Reading Rockets on Saturday 26th March. A win or even a defeat by less than fifteen points, would confirm their position as runners up for the second year in succession.
That in turn, would guarantee home ties in both the quarter and semi-finals of the play-offs, assuming they overcome their as-yet unknown opponents at the quarter-final stage.
Derby: Dan Watts 14, Donaldson 14, Taylor 12, A. Amabilino Perez 10, B. Amabilino Perez 10, Wesselingh 7, Stanley 5, Salih 0, David Watts DNP..
Magic: Cooper 17, Alarcon Lizaur 13, Darbey 10, Goldsbrough 7, Minister 7, Lohfink 6, Garcia Garrido 4, Ali 2, Anumba 2.
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The full round up of Saturday results is as follows:
D1 Men: Derby Trailblazers 72 – 68 Manchester Magic
D3 Men (North): Sefton Stars 71 – 67 Derby Trailblazers
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