PREVIEW - Focus returns to league play after the excitement of the National Cup!

NBL Division One

Loughborough Riders vs Derby Trailblazers

Saturday 24 November 2018 - 2.00pm

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Loughborough head into this weekend fresh off an impressive double-header that saw the Riders cruise to a blow-out win against Manchester, before punching their ticket to the National Cup semi-finals with a win over local rivals Leicester Warriors. Winners of their last two league encounters, Coach Mark Jarram's side will be on a high headed into this tricky match-up with their fellow East Midlands side the Derby Trailblazers. Balanced minutes and an even attack in their back-to-back last weekend showed the range of weapons at Coach Jarram's disposal, but his focus will likely be more on the defensive end in stopping Malcolm Smith and Tre-Shawn Wilford.

A quieter weekend for the Blazers saw them not involved in National Cup action after their surprising early exit at the hands of Liverpool, with just an East Midlands derby league encounter for them on Saturday. The Trailblazers hosted Nottingham McDonald's Hoods and despite Smith and Wilford combining for 60 points on the night, the Hoods snatched that one behind a combined 71 points from Cole Welle, David Watts and Delaney Powell. Coach Matt Shaw will be hoping to quickly bounce back from that one; the Blazers second loss in a row after their 5-0 start to the regular season. 

Import guard Tre-Shawn Wilford believes the Blazers' recent losses will have them refocused, "In some ways, those results have given us a bit of a reality check after we started with five straight wins in the league. We’ve been looking at the mistakes we made in those two games and trying to right them and I think we’re now looking better and gelling better in training."


Barking Abbey Crusaders vs Hemel Storm

Saturday 24 November 2018 - 6.00pm

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Barking Abbey return to the comforts of home this week for a back-to-back on their home floor, following a road trip to the south coast last weekend. One of the most difficult road games in NBL Division One, the Crusaders headed to the Thunderdome and lost out to a Worthing side that put on an offensive clinic. The young Barking side showed some fight down the stretch to keep the scoreline respectable, a silver lining for Coach Lloyd Gardner, but defensive lapses throughout the contest allowed the Thunder to go on big runs to determine the outcome. Another bright spot in the loss was the continued impressive play of Ade Adebayo, who put together an efficient offensive showing, shooting 8-12 from the floor on his way to 22 points. 

The visitors in this first game of the Crusaders' back-to-back is Hemel Storm, who are also struggling in league play - losers of their last four. However, the Storm put their regular season struggles aside last Sunday as they pulled off the biggest upset in the National Cup quarter-finals, a win over Worthing Thunder to book their slot in the semi-finals. The play of Levi Noel was crucial in their knockout upset, pacing his side with 26 points and locking up Zaire Taylor in the second half at the other end. A battle of dynamic back-courts could see this contest played at a breakneck pace, with Adebayo, Jonathan Brown and Chris Feeney going up against Noel, Blayne Freckleton and Bode Adeuola. 


 Essex Leopards vs Leicester Warriors 

Saturday 24 November 2018 - 6.00pm

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This match-up in Colchester will see two sides go head-to-head that have had similar fortunes in the league thus far, but had very different outcomes in their National Cup ties last week. The Leopards hosted fellow league strugglers Manchester Magic at the Brentwood Centre and were able to reel off an impressive run heading into the half that gave them a lead they never relinquished, as the Big Cats booked their place in the semi-finals. Luke Mascall-Wright was important in that win for Coach Thomas Baker's squad, as he came off the bench to pace his side with 18 points. 

Meanwhile, Leicester hosted Loughborough Riders in their National Cup quarter-final last Sunday and were downed in a routine win for their local rivals. The cup loss came off the back of another tough league match-up for the Warriors, which saw Bradford Dragons use a hot start to the game to control proceedings and take a 10 point win after a late Leicester surge got things close again. Coach Karl Brown's side will need to regroup from their back-to-back losses, with a real chance of pinching a result in this one on the road against NBL Division One's basement side. 


 Bradford Dragons vs Team Newcastle 

Saturday 24 November 2018 - 6.15pm

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It has been a season of runs thus far for the Bradford Dragons, who started the season 3-0 before a three-game skid got them back to .500 with a 3-3 record. Winners of their last two, the West Yorkshire side now sit 5-3 in fourth position in the standings, as they look to begin to build some consistent form - with this weekend's foe taking the form of the visiting Team Newcastle. With Bradford's only losses coming against teams who currently reside in the top six in the standings, Coach Chris Mellor's side will fancy their chances in the Dragons Den against eighth-placed Newcastle, but will have to regroup after the departure of Drexler Clark. 

The travelling Team Newcastle head into this one coming off a win against Thames Valley, with a 3-1 record in their last four league encounters after some tough match-ups to start the season. Coach Ian Hewitt is beginning to have multiple weapons emerge in his lineup - once relying on the one-two punch of Eric Stafford and Tosan Evbuomwan, the North East side have seen consistent recent performances from Onyekachi Nzerem and captain David Hanson. With Newcastle yet to win against a team that sits above them in the table, this encounter with Bradford may be a stretch to hope for a result for the road side.


Manchester Magic vs Thames Valley Cavaliers

Saturday 24 November 2018 - 6.15pm

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A disappointing weekend for the Manchester Magic saw them on the receiving end of a lop-sided game against Loughborough Riders, before their short-handed squad crashed out of the National Cup in a narrow loss on the road in Essex. A back-to-back for the Magic this weekend gives them two chances to improve on their 1-5 record, with both games against teams in the bottom half of the table. Despite the soul-searching that comes after two difficult losses, the Magic can look at the play of import big man Jonathan Barnes as a silver lining, as he picked up two double-double performances across their games last weekend. A tough match-up for him in this one will sees Barnes and Elliott Defreitras go head-to-head down low.

The visitors in this one are a Thames Valley side that also picked up two losses in their league and cup double-header last weekend, but in a different manner than their hosts in this one. A narrow home loss at the hands of Team Newcastle certainly was not expected for Coach Robert Banks' side as the North East side had a sharp start to the second half that gave them the lead and control of the contest. Sunday saw the Cavs return to Uxbridge College for a National Cup home tie against league-leaders Team Solent Kestrels. Many wouldn't have given Thames Valley a chance in that one, but Coach Banks' side pushed the Kestrels all the way, losing by four points and very nearly tying the game down the stretch. 


Team Solent Kestrels vs Reading Rockets 

Saturday 24 November 2018 - 7.30pm

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The Kestrels' unblemished record in NBL Division One survived for another week as they used a commanding fourth quarter performance against Hemel Storm to pull away late. The 8-0 record for Coach Matt Guymon's side is an imposing statement made that has put the league on notice - who will be the first to begin that tally in their loss column? With Solent having already beaten three of the top six, they will be confident heading into this one as sixth-placed Reading Rockets roll into Places Leisure Eastleigh looking for an upset. However, Thames Valley's resilient test for the Kestrels last weekend in the cup continues to show that on any given day, any team can pull off a result in this league.

Early losses to the currently ranked second and third placed teams in the league saw Reading Rockets off to a tough 0-2 start, before reeling off a four game winning streak that has them back within toughing distance of the leading pack. Having picked up three wins against bottom half teams, along with an impressive road win over Bradford, Coach Alan Keane's side are beginning to find their feet. However, there is no greater test than a trip to the undefeated league-leaders, so the Berkshire side will have to be on their A-game to stand a chance in this one. 

Rockets' Coach Alan Keane said ahead of the match-up, "Solent have started the season very well but if we can take another step with our behaviours to drive performance, we have a very good opportunity in front of us. I have been pleased with the progress we have been making and how we practice has allowed ourselves to push each other further to be better and stronger especially in the face of adversity."


Nottingham McDonald's Hoods vs Worthing Thunder 

Sunday 25 November 2018 - 1.30pm

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Sunday's action in NBL Division One gets underway with the Nottingham McDonald's Hoods hosting second-placed Worthing Thunder. The Hoods are 3-1 in their last four, with their only defeat coming in a close loss to the Cavaliers, as they picked up an unlikely win over the high-flying Derby Trailblazers last weekend. Cole Welle found his touch to pour in 27 points in his first game for the Hoods played in front of his visiting family, while David Watts showed he is fully recovered from his concussion as he chipped in 24 points in the win. A stern test for Coach Ryan Westley's side in this one is a visit from Worthing Thunder, who will no doubt be hungry for the opportunity to bounce back from their exit from the National Cup.

The aforementioned loss in the National Cup will have come as a shock to many, as Hemel put together the perfect game plan to topple the reigning NBL Division One playoff champions. A balanced scoring attack in the Thunder's league win over Barking shows the potential of their stacked roster, while their downfall in their cup tie was a reliance on the scoring of Zaire Taylor - which dried up in the second half. With their only league loss thus far coming at the hands of the Kestrels, player-coach Josh Goddard's side will likely be unfazed by this trip to the East Midlands, but will need to execute their game plan against a Nottingham side that is finding their form. 


Barking Abbey Crusaders vs Manchester Magic 

Sunday 25 November 2018 - 4.00pm

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The NBL Division One weekend wraps up with Barking Abbey completing their home back-to-back by welcoming Manchester Magic. With both sides in action the day before, fatigue may play a factor in this one for two sides that like to push the pace. The previous planned encounter between these two sides had to be called off a fortnight ago, so it is likely that the squads will be well prepared for one another with that extra time to refine their scout. 

Both sides in this one only have one league victory to the name thus far this season, with Barking pulling off an opening day win over Essex and the Magic grabbing a clutch one point over Newcastle just two weeks ago. A match-up between fellow league strugglers presents a real opportunity for both squads to grab an important result to add to their tally. 


National Trophy

 Essex Leopards vs Reading Rockets 

Sunday 25 November 2018 - 5.30pm

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After hosting the Leicester Warriors the night before, the Big Cats will be back at the Essex Sport Arena for a National Trophy encounter with Reading Rockets. With the Leopards' late entry to the competition, following the reshuffle after Team Northumbria's withdrawal from Division One, three of the four semi-final slots are taken - Loughborough Riders await the winner of Pool C in the next round. 

The Leopards have two games to go in the Trophy pool stage, with this first one against Reading the most crucial. A win for the visiting Berkshire side gives the Rockets a 3-0 record in Pool C and they will progress to face the Riders, while a win for the Leopards keeps things interesting as they head into their final pool game in January against Hemel Storm. 

Rockets' Coach Alan Keane spoke on his team's double-header, "Two great tests coming up for the group this weekend but our focus will be on one game at a time. It's an exciting weekend ahead and we will give everything we have to secure two positive outcomes."

Rockets captain Danny Carter added, "We take on Essex knowing a win will put us into a national semi-final. Essex are improving every week and we will need to be ready for a tough challenge. Our last double-header weekend ended in two wins and more growth as a group, so that’s our aim again."


WNBL Division One

 Southwark Pride vs Bristol Academy Flyers

Saturday 24 November 2018 - 2.00pm

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A quiet three-game slate in WNBL Division One tips off with the league-leading Bristol Academy Flyers paying a visit to fourth-placed Southwark Pride. The Pride head into this one coming off a loss to Solent that snapped a two-game winning streak, as a narrow loss on the south coast saw Southwark drop to 3-2 on the season. With Megan Haines making a return to the line-up recently, Coach Jackson Gibbons now has a range of back-court weapons at his disposal - with Maya Hyacienth, Amelia Sandie and Ashana Hinds joining Haines on the perimeter and able to cause some damage. 

The visitors in this one are coming off a mixed double-header weekend that saw them face Anglia Ruskin University twice in a league and cup back-to-back. The Flyers were able to pick up a narrow win in the league encounter that cemented their position atop the standings with a 6-1 record, dealing Anglia Ruskin their first league loss of the season as the drop to 3-1. However, Sunday's National Cup road trip to Cambridge for the South West side saw them come out of the blocks slow and unable to cut into a commanding lead that the Rhinos built; crashing out of the cup at the quarter-final stage. 


Barking Abbey vs Loughborough Riders 

Saturday 24 November 2018 - 4.00pm

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A weekend off for Barking Abbey last week means their last league action was a 20 point victory over Team Birmingham on their home floor. The East London squad are back on the home court for another match-up with a Midlands side, as the Riders roll into town for this one. Barking have only managed to put two wins on the board this season, with an opening day upset over league-leaders Bristol being their only success until they faced Birmingham a fortnight ago. The win over Bristol proves that any team is beatable on the day in WNBL Division One, so Barking will be hopeful of a result in this one against the travelling Riders.

Loughborough come into this one coming off their own win against Team Birmingham Elite, as they grabbed a narrow win in the all-Midlands encounter, pulling away late to clinch the result. The Riders are firmly placed within the middle pack of the league standings, amidst the five teams with three wins to their name thus far. Holding a three-game winning streak across all competitions heading into this one, the Riders will be buoyed by their cup exploits which sees them into the semi-finals after a win over Ipswich. However, a return to action for Leicester Riders in the WBBL this weekend follow the international window may see some of the big guns unavailable for Loughborough, none more impactful than Holly Winterburn. 


Anglia Ruskin University vs Sevenoaks Suns II 

Saturday 24 November 2018 - 4.00pm

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The final game of the WNBL Division One weekend sees Sevenoaks Suns II make the trip up to Cambridge to face Anglia Ruskin. A mixed weekend for the Rhinos saw them face Bristol Academy Flyers twice in as many days, picking up their first league loss of this campaign on the Saturday. The narrow road loss sees Anglia Ruskin slip to 3-1 on the season, good for third place in the standings. However, the Rhinos' fortunes changed last Sunday as they hosted the Flyers in their National Cup quarter-final tie, picking up a commanding victory that punched their ticket to the semi-finals - led by 16 points from Nadege Talva. 

The visitors in the one are Sevenoaks Suns II, another squad who are caught up in the congested mid-table standings of WNBL Division One. The Suns have a 3-3 record heading into this one, after a tough home loss at the hands of Reading Rockets last weekend. A bright start to the game gave the Suns a chance, before the Rockets ran away with the game as they clamped down on the defensive end. Katie Bennett continues her strong performances at the Division One level, as she paced her side with 18 points last time out. 


NBL Division Two

Greenwich Titans vs East London All Stars

Saturday 24 November 2018 - 3.00pm

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Greenwich Titans kick off the action in NBL Division Two when they hosted an all-capital encounter against East London All Stars. The Titans return to after a week off due to a postponed fixture against Sussex Bears, sitting bottom of the table and holding a three-game losing streak with their lone success coming in an opening day victory over Westminster Warriors. Ray Akpofure was the key man on that day as he lead with 23 points, so the Titans will be looking for a return to form for him.

The visitors in this one have seen slightly better fortunes since their own promotion into Division Two, as the All Stars hold a 2-4 record on the season. However, results have been hard to come by of late for Coach Dave Greenaway's side, as they hold a three-game losing streak of their own, including a tough one point loss against Westminster last weekend. Young guard Jonathan James was on fire for the All Stars last weekend as he poured in 29 points, so East London may go as far as his scoring will take them in this one.


Myerscough College vs Liverpool

Sunday 25 November 2018 - 3.30pm

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Myerscough College tip off their home back-to-back with a an all-North West encounter against undefeated league-leaders Liverpool. The sides have met once before this season, in the Patrons Cup, as Liverpool took that one to advance into the semi-finals. Myerscough sit in third place as things stand, with a 4-2 record, unable to find consistent form of late as they bounce from wins to losses each time out. The young Myerscough side will have their work cut out in this one, but no doubt Coach Neal Hopkins will have his side ready for the battle. Callan Low will be a big part of the battle for Myerscough, as the young Scottish wing picked up NBL Player of the Week honours last weekend following a 26 point performance to pace his side.

The visiting Merseyside squad have an impressive resume so far this season, with a 6-0 record in the league to top the standings, a Patrons Cup semi-final place confirmed, and a cup upset over Derby Trailblazers all to their name thus far. Liverpool make the short trip to Lancashire for this one, which should hopefully means a full roster in tow - with the firepower of David Ulph, Jack Hudson, Kenny Ogunneye and Mark Rangeley; they will be tough to stop.


Westminster Warriors vs Ipswich

Saturday 24 November 2018 - 5.30pm

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On a four-game winning streak after an opening day loss at the hands of Greenwich, Westminster have rocketed up the standings to second place in recent weeks. Their sternest test of late came last weekend as the Warriors overcame a rocky start to the game to pinch a one point win over East London All Stars behind 25 points from player-coach Jon Johnson. 

Making the journey from Suffolk to the capital sees Ipswich looking to improve on their 2-4 record thus far, and build on a recent win over Myerscough. The men in blue are relying heavily on the contributions of their young academy stars, as Veron Eze, Ben Winter and Ethan Price continue to make a name for themselves at senior level; among other young talent. 


 London Greenhouse Pioneers vs London Westside

Sunday 25 November 2018 - 1.30pm

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Another all-capital encounter sees London Greenhouse Pioneers head into this one on a four-game winning streak in all competitions, picking up three recent wins in the league which they followed up with a solid performance in the Patrons Cup to down Greenwich. Kyle Diaz continued his recent scoring form in the match-up with the Titans, as he paced his squad with 25 points. 

The Pioneers' opposition in this one is a London Westside squad that has been inconsistent in recent weeks, but picked up a big win over the Titans in their last time out. Hoping to improve on their 2-3 record and separate themselves from the five teams that have two successes to their name thus far, Coach Frank Lamptey's squad will need a big performance to put an end to the Pioneers' streak. 


Myerscough College vs Westminster Warriors 

Sunday 25 November 2018 - 3.00pm

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Tipping off Sunday's action are Myerscough College as they complete their home back-to-back. Double-headers do not get any tougher than this as the young Lancashire academy follow up their clash with the league-leaders by hosting the second-placed team in the standings, the Westminster Warriors. Both sides are in action the day before, as Westminster follow up their evening game against Ipswich with this trip up to Preston - tough to overcome in search of a crucial result that will affect the pecking order at the business end of the standings. 


Derbyshire Arrows vs London United 

Sunday 25 November 2018 - 4.15pm

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The NBL Division Two weekend will be in the books when Derbyshire Arrows host London United at Dronfield Sports Centre, as the East Midlands side search for their second win of the season. With the Arrows only win thus far coming against basement club Greenwich Titans, this encounter with United will be a tough match-up. Joseph Baugh continues to do all he can for his club, pacing the Arrows with 23 points last time out but getting little support from the roster.

However, the visitors head into this one off the back of a two-game losing streak, as United are among the five mid-table teams with two wins to their name. Last time out United faced one of the toughest games of the Division Two season, a road trip to Liverpool, as Daniel Szatkowski poured in 29 points in the losing effort. 


For full Scores & Schedules from this weekend's action, click the link below: