PREVIEW - National Cup semi-finals take centre stage on Sunday!

NBL Division One

 Derby Trailblazers vs Thames Valley Cavaliers 

Saturday 8 December 2018 - 2.30pm

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A rare matinee game for the Derby Trailblazers sees them play host to Thames Valley Cavaliers, who make the journey up to the East Midlands from West London. After a three-game losing streak, the Blazers got themselves back to winning ways last week as 34 points from star import forward Malcolm Smith spurred them to victory against Manchester Magic. Derby didn't have things all their own way against the struggling North West side, as the Magic put up a fight with a solid third quarter performance - but Coach Matt Shaw's side knuckled down on defence down the stretch to get the stops they needed to pull out the victory and improve to 6-3, good for fourth position.

Looking ahead to the game, Coach Shaw said, "This Thames Valley team seem to have settled very well into life in Division One. They appear to have a good blend of youth and experience, and also have a lot of size and athleticism. It’s going to be a real challenge."

"Having Oli [Stanley] back in our line-up is a huge bonus. He made an impact last weekend and I think we will see his fitness improve further in the coming weeks. Matt [Ward-Hibbert] missed last week with a hip injury, fingers crossed he might be able to return this weekend."

The visitors in this one sit just below the Blazers in the standings, as a 5-3 record for the Cavaliers is good for fifth place. The Cavs have been quietly putting together a very solid first season in NBL Division One, as a tricky start to life in the top flight has been quickly turned around as they are winners of four of their last five encounters. Last weekend saw the West London squad pick up a statement win against Bradford Dragons, as Martelle McLemore came out of the gates firing en route to a 44 point performance, backed up by 28 points from Abdoulaye Sylla. In a battle of two of the most prolific scorers in the league, the McLemore vs Smith match-up will be sight to behold for the fans at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre on Saturday afternoon.

 Barking Abbey Crusaders vs  Leicester Warriors 

Saturday 8 December 2018 - 6.00pm

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Having separated themselves from the pack at the foot of the table in recent weeks, with important wins over Manchester and Hemel, the Barking Abbey Crusaders' run came to an end on the road at Reading Rockets. The contest last weekend saw the young Barking squad battle hard for the first half, but Reading came out in the third with a little more to give as they pulled away for the win. Ade Adebayo continued his solid form as the lead guard for Coach Lloyd Gardner, as he paced his side with 17 points against the Rockets. The loss saw the Crusaders drop to 3-6 on the season, and they will have their sights set on getting back to winning ways in this one against the struggling Warriors.

Leicester are a side that has struggled to reap the rewards of good performances thus far this season, winless since their opening day victory over Manchester. Since that triumph, the East Midlands side have suffered narrow losses in recent weeks against Bradford and Essex, before pushing league-leaders Team Solent Kestrels all the way last weekend. A 10 point loss was the outcome in that one against the Kestrels, but Coach Karl Brown's squad can be buoyed by their good performance that saw them bounce back from an early deficit to force Team Solent to make bigs plays down the stretch to win it in the fourth. The recent signing of Raphel Thomas-Edwards will bolster the Leicester line-up, as he needed little time to get comfortable with his new squad - chipping in 19 points last weekend.


Manchester Magic vs Worthing Thunder 

Saturday 8 December 2018 - 6.30pm

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Following the departure of Head Coach Aurimas (Ollie) Verbukas, Manchester Magic have this week named Simon Fisher as the new Head Coach of their NBL Division One squad. Coach Fisher joins the North West club with an impressive resume, having coached the England Under 16 Men at three European Championships, while having recently led the Wales Under 16 Men to a silver medal at the Division C European Championships this past summer.

Speaking on joining the Magic, Coach Fisher said, "It is an immense honour to be asked to lead the senior men's team. Manchester Magic is a club with a high-quality tradition, which I am committed to become part of. The ethos of the club, embodied by the people involved, was something that has impressed me over the years."

"I intend to try to build on the fantastic work undertaken by Coach Ollie,” added Fisher. “His work will provide a foundation for the rest of the season and beyond, as the connection from the senior team, to the academy and Under 18 team will ensure that we continue to develop players for the next level."

A debut match-up in NBL Division One doesn't get much tougher than this, as the visitors in this one are Worthing Thunder, placing second in the standings with an 8-2 record. Coach Fisher will no doubt be looking for continued form from Magic import big man Jonathan Barnes, who has impressed with his recent numbers - pacing the squad with 23 points and 10 rebounds last time out against the Blazers.

The visiting Worthing Thunder make the long trip up to the Manchester Basketball Centre for this one, and will likely be pleased by a change of scenery after a disappointing home loss last time out. The Thunder picked up just their second loss of the season last weekend, as the Loughborough Riders came into the Thunderdome and spoiled the home fans night with a dominant victory that showed their depth in full effect. On a low-scoring night, the Thunder were paced in that one by Zaire Taylor's 23 points, while captain Brendan Okoronkwo chipped in 18. The Magic will hope to replicate the Riders' effort in keeping Alex Owumi quiet, who had just 10 points in the loss. 


 Nottingham McDonald's Hoods vs Reading Rockets 

Saturday 8 December 2018 - 7.30pm

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The final game of a quiet NBL Division One weekend sees the Nottingham McDonald's Hoods play host to the Reading Rockets who make the trip north from Berkshire. Alongside their fellow NBL Division One newcomers, Thames Valley Cavaliers, the Hoods have quietly been having a very effective season in the top flight, with a 5-4 record that sees them in seventh place. After a loss to Worthing a fortnight ago, Nottingham got back to winning ways with a narrow triumph over Hemel Storm, behind an impressive third quarter performance and a game-high 21 points from import forward Cole Welle. A tough match-up in this one sees the Hoods play host to the side directly above them in the table - a vital result for the team that comes out on top.

After a disappointing loss against league-leaders Team Solent Kestrels, Coach Alan Keane's Rockets got back in the win column with a victory over Barking Abbey last weekend. The young Crusaders pushed Reading to produce a good second half performance, as the Berkshire side pulled away for the win behind 28 points from captain Danny Carter. Import big man AJ Carr was also effective in that one with 23 points and a big baseline dunk that saw him lead the NBL Top Plays of the Week. The trip up to the Wildcats Arena is Reading's second road trip to the East Midlands so far this season, and they will hope to replicate their early season success over the Leicester Warriors. 


Men's National Cup

 Essex Leopards vs Team Solent Kestrels 

Sunday 9 December 2018 - 4.00pm

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The reason behind the quiet weekend of games in NBL Division One is the excitement of the National Cup semi-finals taking centre stage on Sunday. The first of the two semi-finals sees Essex Leopards take on Team Solent Kestrels, back at their former full-time home at the Brentwood Centre. A busy weekend for the Leopards sees them also taking over the @NBLengland Instagram story, so keep your eyes peeled for more features coming your way about the Big Cats important cup tie. Despite lengthy struggles in the league in the early season, the Leopards have found success in the knockout competitions, and have recently found a way to carry over that success into their Division One campaign. A recent win over Team Newcastle was paced by an NBL Player of the Week performance from recent import signing Asante Sandiford. The Leopards path to the semi's has seen them knock off Team Derby Spartans and narrowly escape Westminster Warriors, before impressive home wins against Nottingham McDonald's Hoods and Manchester Magic to punch their ticket into the final four.

Coach Thomas Baker spoke highly of their opposition ahead of the tie, "Coach Guymon’s teams are always well-drilled and strong defensively, so we will need to be at our best if we are to reach the final. They have some returning players from last year, most namely Herm Senor II who is a great leader in their team."

Meanwhile, the visitors in this one have the most impressive resume of the season so far, untouchable at the top of the NBL Division One standings with a 10-0 record. Undefeated in league and cup, the Kestrels only miscue of the season thus far came in the pool stage of the National Trophy, as Nick Lewis paced Worthing Thunder to victory with 35 points - before his departure to make a move along the south coast to join Solent. The Kestrels will likely be high on confidence in this one, battle-tested after a tough win last weekend against Leicester Warriors. US import point guard Herm Senor II recently picked up November Player of the Month for NBL Division One, so will be looking to continue his fine form by putting on a show in Brentwood. 


Loughborough Riders vs Hemel Storm 

Sunday 9 December 2018 - 4.30pm

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The second semi-final match-up sees a reversal of the contest down in Brentwood, as a team struggling thus far in the league makes a trip to an NBL Division One high-flyer. Loughborough Riders have been drawn at home in this semi-final tie, and will head into the game full of confidence against the reigning National Cup champions. A rough start to the season saw the reigning NBL Division One champions languishing with a 1-2 record after losses to Bradford and Solent. Since then, the Riders have reeled five straight wins, including knocking off Worthing last weekend, to haul themselves into third position in the league with a 6-2 record. Having also found success in knockout play, the Riders run to the semi includes dominant wins over fellow Midlands' sides Stoke-on-Trent Knights and Leicester Warriors, while also picking up a narrow home triumph against London United.

Meanwhile, the story of the season for Hemel Storm paints a much darker picture, as the Hertfordshire-based side sit tied at the foot of the NBL Division One standings with a 1-8 record, having gone winless since a late-October triumph against Leicester Warriors. The Storm have been competitive in multiple games, but Coach Robert Youngblood's side haven't had the killer insinct down the stretch - suffering single digit losses against Worthing, Thames Valley, Team Newcastle, Barking Abbey and Nottingham. The National Cup is where the Storm have been able to find consistent success this year, replicating their run to the title a season ago. Their route to the semi's has seen them knock off Ipswich and Barking Abbey in the earlier rounds, before picking up a major upset victory over Worthing Thunder in the quarter-finals, as Levi Noel found a way to shut down Zaire Taylor down the stretch. 


WNBL Division One

 Southwark Pride vs  Ipswich

Sunday 9 December 2018 - 2.20pm

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The lone game in WNBL Division One this weekend sees a battle of two mid-table teams take place in Central London, as Ipswich make the trip into the capital to face Southwark Pride. The Pride find themselves in fifth place in the standings with a 4-3 record, having struggled to put together the consistent form that saw them up near the top of the table a season ago. Coach Jackson Gibbons' squad were able to pick up a vital win last weekend in a very low-scoring game that saw them defeat Sevenoaks Suns II 39-43. On a day where both teams struggled to find the basket, it was Jade Guidolin Duncan who led the way for Southwark, with a game-high 15 points. 

Meanwhile, the visitors in this one are an Ipswich side that are just below Southwark in the standings, with a 3-4 record that is good for seventh place. The Suffolk-based side were unfortunate to not pick up a win last weekend, as Anglia Ruskin poured in 93 points for the contest, including 29 in the final stanza to pull away for the win. Harriet Welham was close to unstoppable in that one, as she exploded for 38 points - Coach Nick Drane will be hoping for a repeat of this scoring effort this week, with some more balanced production from the rest of the roster to get them over the hump. 


Women's National Cup

Anglia Ruskin University vs Reading Rockets 

Sunday 9 December 2018 - 3.30pm

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The Women's National Cup has reached the semi-final stage this weekend, with the first match-up seeing second-placed Anglia Ruskin University play host to Reading Rockets. The reigning WNBL Division One playoff champions have had an impressive start to the season, with a returning core of the national championship side making big impacts on the league thus far. Nadege Talva and Katrin Hulme have been consistent performers for Coach Matt Harber in the early season, joined by newcomer Najha Treadwell - who recently picked up WNBL Player of the Month for November. The Rhinos only miscue so far this season came in a league loss against Bristol Academy Flyers, but the Cambridge-based side bounced back the following day to down the Flyers in the cup quarter-final and book their spot in the final four.

The visiting side in this tie is a Reading Rockets outfit that has struggled to maintain consistent form thus far, evidenced by their even 3-3 record on the season. While picking up impressive wins against the teams towards the lower end of the table, the Rockets have been unable to take any results off the teams towards the top half of the table - a recipe for mid-table mediocrity. The knockout competition is where Reading have been much more than mediocre, picking up big wins against London 'South Bank' Thunder and Cardiff Met Archers II to book their place in the semi's. Facing their first WNBL Division One opposition in knockout play so far, the Rockets will hope to fare better than their early season league match-up against the Rhinos, in which they fell to a 73-84 loss.


 Team Solent Kestrels vs Loughborough Riders 

Sunday 9 December 2018 - 5.30pm

Live Stats

The other side of the draw in the Women's National Cup semi-finals sees the third and fourth placed teams in the WNBL Division One standings do battle on the south coast. A solid start to the season sees Team Solent Kestrels in third place in the league with a 5-2 record, behind the stellar play of Geena Gomez and Earleesha Jackson. The Solent squad has had a relatively comfortable ride into the semi-final, having picked up dominant wins against Nottingham Trent University and Team Birmingham Elite. The Kestrels and Riders have met once before this season, when Solent grabbed a 60-46 league win back in October, behind a game-high 20 points from Andrea Kurkowski. 

The squad making the trip down from the East Midlands in this one are a Loughborough side that has seen a resurgence of for throughout November, going 3-1 for the month in the league, as Krumesh Patel earned the WNBL Coach of the Month award. A successful month of league play has seen Loughborough grab wins against Ipswich, Birmingham and Barking, while also punching their ticket to the National Cup semi's with a win over Ipswich, behind 23 points from Holly Winterburn. This match-up has all the makings of an exciting affair, pitting the young Riders stars against the experienced Kestrels veterans - as both clubs hope to send both their Men's and Women's teams to Essex for the finals in January. 


NBL Division Two

Greenwich Titans vs Liverpool

Saturday 8 December 2018 - 3.00pm

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Greenwich Titans' struggles continued in NBL Division Two last weekend, as they fell to 1-5 on the season with a 111-109 overtime loss at the hands of Ipswich. Ray Akpofure had an incredible performance in the Titans' loss, pouring in 47 points on 18-26 shooting, with 17 rebounds and five steals - a sure bet for Player of the Week, had his squad picked up the victory in the overtime period. 

Meanwhile, their visitors in this one are the toughest test that could walk through the doors - the undefeated Liverpool side that has dominated NBL Division Two thus far, with a 8-0 record to their name. Coach Delme Herriman has plenty of weapons to call upon in this one, with David Ulph, Kenny Ogunneye, Jack Hudson and Mark Rangeley all having had moments in the limelight so far - to name just a few. 


 London Westside vs Sussex Bears

Saturday 8 December 2018 - 6.15pm

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London Westside dropped to 2-5 on the season last weekend with a tough road loss against Derbyshire Arrows, as a balanced scoring attack wasn't enough to keep pace with the free-scoring Arrows. The star performers in that one were Levi Edwards and Aaron Noel who paced six double digit scorers with 13 points each, while Tyrell Isaacs contributed 12 points and eight rebounds in the loss.

The Sussex Bears make the trip up to the capital with a two-game losing streak to their name, after defeat at the hands of London Greenhouse Pioneers a week ago. The Pioneers poured in 28 points in the final stanza to pull away for a narrow win, so Coach Gary Smith will be hoping for a better defensive effort down the stretch the keep this one competitive and snap their recent rough streak. 


 London Greenhouse Pioneers vs East London All Stars

Sunday 9 December 2018 - 1.30pm

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As one of the division's most in-form sides, the London Greenhouse Pioneers will be high on confidence heading into this all-London derby. An undefeated November for the Pioneers was followed up by last week's win over Sussex Bears, which sees Greenhouse hold a five-game winning streak heading into this one. Their recent success saw the Pioneers do the double in the NBL Division Two awards for November, as Predrag Krneta picked up Coach of the Month, while Max Hufschlag grabbed Player of the Month.

A week off for the East London All Stars since their impressive win over Greenwich Titans should have them well rested heading into this short road trip to face the in-form Pioneers. Coach Dave Greenaway's young side has had a mixed start to the season, currently in sixth with a 3-4 record, as they figure out their place in the league amongst the congested mid-table sides. Kyle Gouveia has emerged as a key scorer for East London, another exciting piece to add to the dynamic back-court presence of Jonathan James and Aaron Badibo.


Derbyshire Arrows vs Myerscough College 

Sunday 9 December 2018 - 4.00pm

Live Stats

The final game that wraps up the NBL Division Two weekend sees Myerscough College make the trip over the Pennines to face Derbyshire Arrows at Dronfield Sports Centre. The Arrows have had a tough campaign thus far, with just a 2-5 record to their name, but they will have picked up a confidence boost with an impressive high-scoring win over London Westside a week ago. Joseph Baugh continues to be the key player for Derbyshire as the forward poured in 29 points last weekend to lead all scorers. 

The visiting Myerscough College side will be looking for a resurgence in their form; after a 3-1 start to the season, Coach Neal Hopkins side have limped to a 1-4 record in their last five - having faced much tougher opposition as the first half of the season progressed. On a squad bursting with young talent from the Myerscough academy, veteran presence David Walsh has been crucial for Coach Hopkins' side - providing a consistent scoring threat both inside and out. The North West side will be hopeful of a good result in this one against the struggling Arrows, but will need to put in a good performance to grab the win on the road. 


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