Important wins for Leicester Warriors and BA London Lions II in D1 this weekend - NBL Review for 11 & 12 November 2017

Tags: National League

D1 Men

31 points from American Rodney Sanders was enough to help Leicester Warriors claim a 2nd win on the season, downing Kent Crusaders 96-80 on Saturday. The Warriors dominated the game for stretches to begin both halves to ultimately seal an important victory. In danger of losing touch with the teams above them, Leicester will now hope to use this result as a springboard to move up the standings in the coming weeks. For Kent, they slipped to 3-3 and Head Coach Lloyd Gardner hopes to take some positives from the game despite the result, “It was a tough game for us,” Gardner said. “I thought we played naively on the defensive end and that was the difference in the game. Leicester played really well, especially with their guards, who are as good as anyone in the league, and we didn’t adjust to that. It was a good lesson for us moving forward and something that we will have to improve as the season goes on.” Top scorer for the Crusaders was Sean Nealon-Lino who finished on 15.

Hemel moved to 5-1 as they survived a nail biter against Worthing to win 91-89. An 18-0 run by the Thunder to close the 3rd and begin the 4th pushed the visitors advantage into double digits and left many in attendance fearing the worst. But Hemel regrouped and made a charge, powered by Wayne Yeboah and David Ajumobi, who finished the game with 30 points.  Yeboah’s basket with 15 seconds to go ended up being the game winner but Worthing will be left to rue 2 misses free throws from Jorge Ebanks in the dying seconds. A half-court heave on the buzzer from Zaire Taylor was also wayward, extinguishing any hope for the travelling side. “It was tough, we had the lead but fatigue due to Hemel’s physical nature playing its part,” Worthing coach Daniel Gayle said afterwards. “Scoring wise it seemed that we had no-one else to relive Zaire, Brendan (Okoronkwo) and Jorge. Some of the stuff they did was outstanding. The others played their part but couldn’t seem to put the points on the board.”

Dave Ajumobi had a great outing for Hemel this weekend - Linda Titmuss

In a key battle up the top of the table, it was Loughborough who came out victorious against Team Solent Kestrels 86-67. 19 points from Lucien Cristofis and 18 more from Sesan Russell helped the new table toppers to a 41-33 lead at the half and some stubborn defence in the 3rd kept the visiting Kestrels to just 15 points. That created a 4th quarter lead that put the Riders in a strong position, ultimately proving to be decisive as they saw the game out. American Joe Tagarelli was the leader for Solent, who scored 21.

Elsewhere there were ugly scenes in Manchester on Sunday as a 1st quarter incident saw 6 players disqualified from the Magic’s 81-76 OT win vs Team Northumbria. A tight contest where neither side was able to establish a double digit lead, the game continued to swing back and forth. Michael Anumba’s 23 points allowed the hosts to reel in Northumbria early in the 4th before building a lead of their own, only to watch the game finally go to OT. Both teams took the opportunity to lead in the extra frame but 5 points from Hamad Ali and 7 from Anumba down the stretch were enough to secure the 2 points.

It was a double win weekend for the Magic as they claimed a narrow win on the North East against struggling Team Newcastle University. A final of 81-78 was tough on the newly promoted side who limited Manchester to just 9 points in the 3rd quarter. Ultimately a slow start to the game where they spotted the visitors a 23-12 lead was too much to overcome despite 23 points from Kingsley Pinder. Donte Gittens led the way for Manchester with 20.

Team Northumbria did manage one win on the weekend despite Sunday’s result in Manchester, claiming a straightforward 89-54 win over Lancashire Spinners on Saturday. The visitors were in control for all 4 quarters and with a 19-point lead at half time, they never looked in trouble. It was a team effort from the reigning champions as 6 players all made it to double digits, led by Jack Preston and Blayne Freckleton on 13.

Finally, Reading put the memory of their loss to Manchester firmly behind them as Sydney Donaldson and Tim Gill both passed the 20-point mark for Reading as they grabbed a 95-74 W over Bradford. The Rockets held the upper hand against the Dragons on the boards throughout, pulling down 40 rebounds to Bradford’s 28, allowing them to add 15 2nd chance points. Despite Reading’s lead passing 20 in the 2nd half, credit should go to the travelling side as they fought back early in the 3rd behind 21 total points from Rafi Saipe to get the deficit back to 4. From there though, Reading went through the gears once again to close this one out.

D1 Women

BA London Lions II will be relieved to have notched their first win of the season after a 4 game slide, topping Team Birmingham Elite 79-66 on the road. “It was a very scrappy game,” Head Coach Karen Burton said after the contest. “It was our best start in any game so far but became scrappy after that. We didn’t lose our composure; something that has hurt us in previous games.” Whilst the start of the game impressed Burton, the final period was there the Lions pulled out the stops. Trailing 54-52, BA went on a tear to end proceedings and put a slant on a score line that didn’t tell the true story of a largely even game.

Another team to secure a valuable 2 points this weekend was Team Solent Kestrels. After a difficult start to the season, Solent secured a 57-54 win over surprise package Oxford Brookes, but they certainly had to work for the result. In control at 34-23 at the half, Brookes chipped away throughout the 2nd half with points from eventual top scorer Courtney Grey (who finished on 17) and captain Alice Walton. It was Walton who popped up with a late triple to make the contest a 1 score game, but it was too little, too late. Despite missing their own captain in Jodi Jerram, the Kestrels will no doubt be delighted to have dug deep for a useful win. Despite their slow start, CJ Lee is still very optimistic for the rest of the season, said “We’ve been improving every week and this is simply the result of applying ourselves in practice and learning from previous mistakes.  I think this year is going to be one of the closest battles for the Championship in recent years and in spite of a slow start out of the blocks, we’re not out of the race.”

Bristol and Solent battled hard this weekend, but it was the Kestrels who came away with the win - Mirrorbox Studios

With Oxford’s loss, Bristol Flyers were presented with an opportunity to push out to a lead at the top of the table. Loughborough Student Riders would play spoiler to that though, taking their home tie against the Flyers 56-52. In a stereotypical game of two halves, it was the hosts who charged out to a commanding lead behind the efforts Ebony Horton and Holly Wright. Up 39-19 at half time, the Riders couldn’t maintain that defensive pressure for the duration and coupled with a slew of turnovers, Bristol began to get back into the contest. Had the game continued for another few minutes it might have produced a different result, but as it was the Flyers’ fight back simply ran out of time. They outscored their opponents 19-7 in the final frame and Maialen Zibleti once again starred, but even her 16 points couldn’t give her side more time to pull off a comeback. “The effort on the defensive end was great in the first half, however too many turnovers in the second made it a tougher game for us '’ said Riders’ Head Coach Krumesh Patel. “Bristol continued to challenge and raised the intensity to cause us some problems, however the girls did a good job battling adversity to see the win through.” 

Where Bristol and Oxford both failed, Essex showed no such problems and are the only undefeated side left in D1W after a 67-61 win over Anglia Ruskin. Winless themselves, Ruskin will have been encouraged to be in the contest with a half time score of 33-33. Things quickly unravelled in the 3rd for the hosts however, finishing the quarter with a 13-point deficit that would be difficult to overcome, especially against a team leading the league. That proved to be the case and despite trying to rally, the ask was too great. Talva top scored for AR with 21, and American Jasmine Ogunjimi led the way for Essex with 22.

Lancashire Spinners relied on the hot scoring of Shauna Harrison to secure their 3rd win of the season, easing past University of Nottingham 64-56. The teenager finished on 22 points to lead all scorers in the contest and the GB youth international continues to go from strength to strength. Efthymia Basoukou top scored for Nottingham with 16.

Southwark Pride v Reading was postponed and will be played at a later date.

D2 Men

Nottingham Hoods show no sign of letting up as their winning streak to begin the season hit 6 games this weekend. An 88-71 victory at London Greenhouse Pioneers shows the Hoods are still the team to beat in the division. Seizing the lead midway through the 3rd quarter, Nottingham wouldn’t relinquish the position for the rest of the game. Coach Westley will no doubt have been impressed with his team’s depth as well. The Hoods enjoyed significant contributions from their bench with Ballantine, James and Casimiro Mestre all getting in the mix and Ballantine was 1 of 6 players who made it to double digits for the league leaders. In contrast, Mark Raynolds, Luca Piccini, and Dean Prosenica combined for 52 of the Pioneers 71 points.

Thames Valley were able to at least match the Hoods as they continued their own promotion chase with a 93-79 win over Essex Leopards. The Cavs led for the duration, stretching the lead above the 15-point mark on a couple of occasions. A John Shodipo inspired comeback to begin the 2nd half reeled the home side in and after a Jerrel Laine jumper it was a 1-point game at 60-59. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for the Leopards. “It was a much better performance overall this time round against Thames Valley” said Essex Coach Tom Baker, referring to his sides’ recent loss to the Cavs in the National Cup.  “A poor start meant we were chasing the game which ultimately cost us the result in the latter stages. We showed we can cause teams problems with the way we play and getting the game back to a 1 pointer, I felt we were going to go on from there and win the game. As always there are things we can improve, however I saw how resilient my guys can be and we showed grit and toughness to compete throughout which is what we will need to do in the upcoming games.” Abdoulaye Sylla’s double-double of 20 points and 11 boards was a key to the contest but the Cavs also enjoyed solid scoring from Robert Banks Jr, Philip Perre (18 points each) and Martelle McLemore (21 points). Shodipo finished on 16 points and 9 rebounds, with Dougie Bennett adding 14 points and Laine finishing on 12.

Essex Leopards' Coach Tom Baker will be hoping his team can bounce back to D1M at the first time of asking - Essex Leopards

It was a tough weekend on the road for Derbyshire Arrows as they lost both games on their travels. Saturday’s 79-70 loss to Sussex Bears was followed up by a 100-70 defeat to Westminster Warriors, meaning a lot of miles covered for zero return. Sussex can thank veteran Bud Johnston as he played all 40 minutes to score 20 points, pull down 10 boards and dish 8 assists in a do-it-all performance that made the difference for the Bears. Joseph Baugh led all scorers with 27 for the Arrows but it wouldn’t be enough. Baugh once again led from the front against the Warriors, dropping 18 minutes in 29 minutes of play but it was in vain as Westminster led from post to post, creating 23 assists as a team and shooting over 50% from the floor. Jon Johnson and Justin Hitchman both had 16 Westminster.

The Warriors’ weekend started well, notching an 86-71 win over Ipswich to put a dent in the hosts early season form. Johnson was once again the focal point of his side’s offence as he collected 22 points. Cameron Hawes top scored on 25 but Ipswich faded at the end of each half, leaving the home side down 49-37 at the break and even further afield come the final buzzer.

Another side looking to put last season firmly behind them are Liverpool and they added another promising display to their name this weekend, beating Middlesex LTBC 84-67. Uche Umekwe played just over 30 minutes for a 17 point, 15 rebound double-double, but his efforts were overshadowed by Centre David Ulph who came off the bench to grab 15 rebounds of his own to go with 19 points. The duo’s efforts meant Liverpool could dominate the game on the glass and their 52 points in the paint compared to Middlesex’s 26 also told the story of the game.

The Team Birmingham Elite v London Westside score was unavailable at the time of writing.

Elsewhere in the NBL

Ipswich stamped their authority on the D2W North table as a dominant 92-40 win over Mansfield moves the side to 3-0 in top spot. Likewise, in the South Sevenoaks Suns II also went to 3-0 after a 71-42 win over University of Exeter. Ellie Hutchinson had 14 points for the Suns in that one.

A comfortable 91-72 home win for Sheffield Hallam Sharks means they are keeping pace with Myerscough College at the top of the standings in D3M North, but the Lancashire side continued their own winning ways as they dropped University of Chester 96-53 on Sunday.

In D3M South action, Oxford Brookes and Cardiff City both collected wins to help their ambitions at the top of the table. Oxford managed a close fought victory over Northants Tauras 89-83 and Cardiff saw off Essex 88-78 thanks to 37 points from Lewis Tucker.

With Team Derby’s 111-70 W over Nottingham Trent Hoods and Derby Trailblazers’ 119-70 win over Charnwood, both sides are still deadlocked at the summit of the D4M Midlands table. Calderdale continued their unbeaten start to the D4M North season as they handled Manchester Magic II 85-59. Home wins for Bristol Flyers II and Southampton Sharks, plus a road victory for London United means all 3 teams join Huish Taunton Tigers in a 4-way tie at the top of the D4M South West table.

Despite moving to 6-0 in D4M South East, Barking Abbey’s Head Coach James Vear was less than impressed with his side’s efforts in a 95-58 win over Northants Titans, “We were not very good today for large stretches,” said Vear. “We are trying to create good habits especially defensively and we didn’t do that today. We are a talented offensive team but if we want to go further this season we will have to buy in on the defensive end.” Spyros Kapsalos had 23 points for the league leaders in that one.

The criticism from Vear may well have still be fresh in the minds of his Barking players as they went out on Sunday and put on a dominant performance over Essex Blades in the National Shield. Coming out 86-50 winners, youngster Robin Bedford finished on 17 points and the team as a whole gave a much better account of themselves in Vear’s opinion, “We were great today from start to finish,” he enthused. “Essex are a very well coached team with a lot of good players, we did a great job defensively giving them nothing easy.”

In other Shield action, Oxford Brookes couldn’t utilise their home court advantage against D3M South rivals East London All Stars as the former D2 side came away with a 95-87 win to put themselves in the draw for the next round. There were also wins for Birmingham Mets, Team Solent Kestrels II and WLV Albion.