D1: Trailblazers use overtime to stay unbeaten and go top of division one


Westminster Warriors 101 (14, 31, 59, 88)
Derby Trailblazers 104 (28, 43, 71, 88) (after overtime)
NBL Men’s Division 1


Westminster _WARRIORS_LOGODespite being a clash between two sides at opposite ends of the league table, Derby Trailblazers needed overtime to keep their unbeaten start to the NBL division one season intact. It was an outcome which seemed implausible when the Trailblazers were leading 28-8 with less than a minute of the first quarter remaining.

However, Westminster fought back strongly, using their size and physical power to make life increasingly difficult for the Trailblazers, in a match which demonstrated how closely the division seems to be this season.

Dan Watts produced an incredible captain’s performance, leading the team in points scored, assists, steals and blocks, as well as being Derby’s second leading rebounder.

His eventual stat-line of twenty-eight points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one blocked shot gave him an astonishing efficiency ranking of 39, in a performance which earned high praise from the Trailblazers Head Coach Matt Shaw:

“It was once again a brilliant team display. I thought Dan's stat line was sensational, but Sydney [Donaldson] and [David] TinTin [Watts] also made some massive plays throughout the game too.

“Reiss [Harwood] also did a lot of unsung work, just as he did the previous night, defending very well. We also had other players stepping up too, such as Brian [Amabilino Perez] who had nine points and showed great composure for a sixteen year old playing at this level.

“Overall, it’s been another amazing weekend for us. To come out of two close games with a pair of wins is a massive achievement. After seven games, we now find ourselves on top of the league table as one of only two teams who are unbeaten, which is an incredible achievement,” he said.

Derby began the game in free flowing style with strong play at both ends of the court. They held the home side to just two points in the first five minutes, but which time Derby were 15-2 up, thanks to a pair of three-pointers from Dan Watts and another from his brother TinTin.

An early highlight for the Trailblazers came in the form of a steal and a breakaway slam dunk from Brian Amabilino Perez, which took the score to 17-4. Westminster produced a dunk of their own from Stephen Robinson, but while they were still wildly celebrating, TinTin Watts was calmly stroking home a three-pointer at the opposite end of the court.

Consecutive Dan Watts scores, firstly from inside and then from downtown gave Derby their biggest lead of the game at 28-8, before Westminster finally began to find their offensive rhythm. The result was six unanswered points at the end of the first quarter, meaning the Blazers only took a fourteen point lead into the first break.

For the bulk of the second period, the lead hovered around ten points, but there was an uncomfortable moment when a Jon Johnson triple cut the lead to 34-30, before a Donaldson jump shot and a Jake Wesselingh three-pointer got Derby back on track. Johnson then hit one of two at the line, before TinTin buried a huge triple on the buzzer, to make it 43-31 at the break.

An evenly balanced third quarter followed, with the Blazers still up by twelve points going in the final period of regulation, but it was in the fourth quarter where the hosts started to dominate:

“Westminster made some big plays in the fourth quarter,” admitted Coach Shaw. “They limited our scoring for a while and once they picked up some momentum, it was as if we were playing a different team. I think we were guilty of losing our focus somewhat during that spell too,” he said.

The Warriors gradually whittled away at the deficit and eventually took the lead via a Yannick Bulumbwe three-point play with 1’21” on the clock. TinTin Watts then tied the scores at 88-all with a pair of free-throws and neither side could break the deadlock over the final minute.

Once into overtime, the Trailblazers were always in the ascendancy. Oli Stanley scored six of Derby’s points in a 12-6 start to the extra period, including an offensive tip-in and notching up the century landmark with a jump shot to make it 100-94 with two minutes left.

Both sides missed numerous baskets in the remainder of the game, but a Donaldson jump-shot and a pair of free throws from TinTin Watts was enough for the Trailblazers to stretch their unbeaten league start to seven games and rack up their ninth straight victory in all competitions.

“We started off great, especially on offence but despite having a good lead we let it slip in the fourth,” commented Coach Shaw. “I don’t think we were as prepared for their personal as we were on Saturday, mainly because of the short turnaround between games.

“Our focus all week was on Northumbria, so we couldn't prepare as thoroughly for Westminster and I think that was why we gave up so many points. We can improve on that to a degree for future double headers, but it's always a difficult task to ask players to look two games ahead.

“I was impressed with the way our guys regrouped and performed in overtime, particularly given the intensity of Saturday’s game and the extended minutes guys had to play. Oli popped up with six huge points early in the extra period, helping us to steady the ship before making some big stops down the stretch.

“It’s a delight to see how we have a number of different young guys stepping up and making big contributions. Now it's important we all continue to get better, not just as individuals, but also collectively as a team,” he said.

Derby will now take a break from league action next weekend, as they face Manchester Magic in the semi-finals of the Men’s National Cup at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Hall. Tip off on Saturday is at 7:15pm, with a bumper crowd expected.

The league match at home to Tees Valley Mohawks originally scheduled for this date will now be played on Sunday December 20th, at 4:15pm.

Warriors: Bulumbwe 25, Johnson 24, Joseph 22, Tatham-Nunn 12, Robinson 8, Adomaitis 4, Ekperuoh 4, Randle 2, Damptey 0, Share 0.

Derby: Dan Watts 28, David Watts 27, Donaldson 20, Stanley 10, B. Amabalino Perez 9, Wesselingh 6, Harwood 2, Nelson 2, King 0.


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Sunday’s results in full are as follows:
D1 Men: Westminster Warriors 101-104 Derby (after overtime)
D3 Men North: Trailblazers II 71-78 Leeds Force Academy
NBDL (NE): Sheffield Hallam Sharks 88-51 Derby
U14 Boys: (NP): Northants Titans 100-54 Derby


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