D1: Trailblazers slip to heartbreaking defeat in Essex


Essex Leopards 74 (14, 34, 51)
Derby Trailblazers 71 (19, 35, 56)

NBL Men’s Division One


Essex -leopards -logo -72ppi -white -300x 961Derby Trailblazers hopes of producing a clean sweep over Essex Leopards were dashed when they turned the ball over three times in the last eighteen seconds of the game. Instead of being up 71-70 up and with the ball to follow a Leopards time-out, the Trailblazers were suddenly left chasing the game and forced to foul.

There were just eighteen seconds left when David TinTin Watts had the ball stripped away by Will Ashby, prompting Sydney Donaldson to foul Ladi Brown, who made both shots at the line. Seconds later, Derby had turned it over again, with Donaldson this time at fault.

Leopards called their final time-out with four seconds remaining and Chris Taylor was quick to foul as play resumed, sending Dougie Bennett to the line. He also held his nerve to sink both shots, taking to the score to 74-71 with three seconds left.

With the chance to force overtime still a possibility Derby called time-out, knowing this would advance the ball into their own half when play resumed. However, disaster struck as Taylor turned the ball over, leaving the Leopards to celebrate the win:

“It was a frustrating loss, because we had the game in our own hands really,” admitted Derby’s Head Coach Matt Shaw.

“Giving up three turnovers in the last twenty seconds pretty much sums up the whole evening, we just didn't look after the ball well enough.

“In the half court we defended pretty well for the most part, but offensive rebounds and turnovers were the key.

“We have to take our medicine. We've won plenty of close games this year and I honestly thought the lads were going to pull it out the bag again, but it wasn't to be.

“Credit to Leopards, some of their guys made big plays. Will Ashby got some huge steals and made a massive three at the end, and Dougie Bennett hurt us knocking down some big shots too. They are always tough and deserved to win on the night,” he said.

On a poor night for the Trailblazers, Dan Watts led the way with sixteen points, six rebounds and five assists, while Chris Taylor had thirteen points and five board and David Watts completed a double-double of twelve points and ten rebounds.

Derby had led by as many as eight points early in the third, after benefitting from an impressive run either side of the half-time break. They went from 33-29 down to 42-34 up, thanks to a 13-1 run which began with a jump shot from Taylor and ended with an emphatic dunk from TinTin Watts.

It was probably the Trailblazers best spell of the game, but it wasn’t without errors, as Derby missed five shots and turned the ball over in addition to netting points through both Watts’ brothers. Evan Walshe then sank one of two at the line for Leopards, as they closed the half trailing 35-34.

The Trailblazers continued where they left off at the start of the third, beginning with a three-pointer from Dan Watts, a jump-shot from Barish Salih and that trademark dunk from TinTin, which left them 42-34 ahead with 7’39” on the clock.

Unusually, the dunk didn’t seem to motivate Derby in the way it sometimes can. Instead, Leopards hit seven unanswered points, to claw things back to a one-point game. The Blazers failed to capitalise on a technical foul called on Courtney Van-Beest, with Donaldson missing the resulting free throw and a three-pointer off the possession.

To further signify it was one of those nights when very little was going Derby’s way, it took them three attempts before they could add to their score. Then, after a reply from Ashby, Taylor missed a shot and a tip-in after gathering his own rebound. Kayne King then secured another possession, only to turn the ball over.

Leopards then tied the game at 44-all, as Connor Stuart made one of two at the line, before Derby gradually started to pull away once more. A triple from Dan Watts took the lead back to six points, before a foul and a technical on King saw the home side convert two of three at the line and turn the ball over on the possession.

A Donaldson jump shot subsequently put Derby 56-49 ahead, before Leopards sank two from the line to trim the gap to five points. The Trailblazers could have made it seven going into the final period, but Taylor missed consecutive shots from the line.

Derby twice stretched their advantage to back to seven points in the early starts of the fourth, thanks to inside and outside scores from TinTin Watts, but they seemed unable to pull further away in the manner they should have been capable of.

Instead, Leopards, gradually whittled away at the gap, using a 7-0 run to tie the scores at 65-all with four and a half minutes remaining. An Ashby three put theme 70-67 ahead with 1’41” on the clock, but Derby went back in front by one after Oli Stanley made one of two at the line and Donaldson sank a triple to make it 71-70 in Blazers favour with 54 seconds left.

With victory back in their sights, Derby failed to take care of the ball and Leopards came from behind to seize the victory.

It will go down as a poor night at the office for the Trailblazers, who shot a disappointing 60% from the foul line and whose twenty-three turnovers was simply too many at this level.

The defeat makes next Saturday’s trip to Team Northumbria hugely important in the race for second place, as both clubs are now on four losses, although the University based side have played too games fewer.

Essex: Ashby 15, Van-Beest 12, Bennett 11, Brown 11, Nguru 7, Oyelase 5, Margai 4, Stuart 4, Haynes 2, Martin 2, Walshe 1.

Derby: Dan Watts 16, Taylor 13, David Watts 12, Donaldson 11, B. Amabilino Perez 8, Stanley 7, King 2, Salih 2, A. Amabilino Perez 0, Calvey 0, Wesselingh 0.


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The full results from the weekend were as follows:

D1 Men: Essex Leopards 74-74 Derby Trailblazers
U16 Boys (MDL): Derby Trailblazers 81-33 Ilkeston Outlaws
U14 Boys (MDL): Shropshire Warriors xx-yy Derby Trailblazers II

D3 Men: Derby Trailblazers II 79-76 Doncaster Danum Eagles
Men’s NEDL: Derby Trailblazers III 73-82 Kingston Panthers
U18 Men: Team Birmingham Elite xx-yy Derby Trailblazers


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