PLAYOFF PREVIEW - First round of the playoffs get underway with exciting Quarter-Final matchups!

NBL Division One

 (1) Team Solent Kestrels v (8) Leicester Warriors 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 8.00pm

Live Stats

To get the first Playoff Preview of the NBL post-season underway, we start with the NBL Division One champion Team Solent Kestrels playing host to the Leicester Warriors for a late game at Places Leisure Eastleigh. The Kestrels wrapped up the league title and the top seed heading into the playoffs on an eight-game winning streak, beating out south coast rivals Worthing Thunder to take the silverware. Having hit their stride offensively over the final stages of the season, Coach Matt Guymon's side hit the triple digit mark four times in that successful eight game stretch - a potent scoring roster to say the least. One such team that the Southampton-based squad scored freely against was Leicester themselves, in a 101-65 victory back in early March. This win completed Team Solent's season sweep over the Warriors after a 74-84 road win back in December at Braunstone Leisure Centre. 

Meanwhile, heading into this 1st vs 8th matchup as the significant underdog is a Leicester Warriors side that has made an unlikely run in the second half of the season to grab a post-season berth for the first time since the 2012/13 season - an 8th placed finish that year as well. With a 3-8 record heading into the festive break, the Warriors looked much closer to a relegation battle than a post-season appearance but after securing the services of Raphell Thomas-Edwards and Taylor Johnson, alongside Carl Pearson rejoining his old team down the stretch, Coach Karl Brown's bolstered squad made quite a run. By early February, the Warriors had already doubled their win total from the first half of the campaign, holding a 6-11 record after victories over Derby, Manchester and Reading. After a 9-6 run to end the year after the mid-season break, the Warriors had hauled themselves into the 8th spot and now face the tough trip to the south coast to battle a Kestrels' side which is undefeated at home thus far this campaign. 


 (2) Worthing Thunder v (7) Essex Leopards 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 7.30pm

Live Stats

Having tasted both the sweetness of success and the bitterness of failure so far this season, Worthing Thunder head into the NBL Division One playoffs with the 2nd seed - coming up just short in the title race against Team Solent. One of only two clubs thus far this campaign to have already brought home silverware, this National Trophy champion Thunder squad will be looking to successfully defend their Division One playoff title won against Hemel last season, adding another resident to the trophy cabinet at the Thunderdome. In their plight for the league title, Worthing ended the season on a nine-game win streak, a run which included a 90-94 victory over Essex Leopards at the Essex Sport Arena. The February victory in Colchester was the second instalment of the head-to-head this season, after Worthing had cruised to a 104-86 win over the Big Cats back in November. 

Surprise Division One newcomers have made their way into the post-season as the 7th seeded team, following a late promotion back to the top flight after Team Northumbria's shock withdrawal from NBL action. Starting the year on a five game losing streak, the early season looked bleak for Coach Thomas Baker and his troops, but the Leopards squeezed in three wins in four attempts before the Christmas break after US import forward Asante Sandiford's vital late addition to the squad. With a 3-6 record, the Big Cats found themselves near the foot of the table, but a four game win streak in January and another four game streak in February ensured that the Leopards extended their season into April. Ending the regular season on a tough stretch, Coach Baker's side last tasted victory back on Saturday 2 March, with a five game losing streak seeing Essex drop down the standings after challenging for a top six finish. 


 (3) Loughborough Riders v (6) Reading Rockets 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 2.00pm

Live Stats

Another side to have already tasted the success of silverware this season are the National Cup champion Loughborough Riders who make their way into the post-season as NBL Division One's 3rd seed. The Riders headed into last campaign's playoffs as the league champions, but suffered a disappointing semi-final exit on their home floor against eventual champions Worthing Thunder. Having returned the majority of that group and added more up-and-coming British talent, the East Midlands squad seem much more ready for the big stage - especially after their recent successes in the academy and university spheres. Loughborough University recently clinched a four-peat of the BUCS Championship title, while this Wednesday saw Charnwood College take home the EABL Playoffs title after a surprising comeback against Barking Abbey. With big games to come for this young group, their recent preparation by winning national finals can only stand them in good stead for a deep post-season run.

Making their way into the playoffs as the 6th seed in the top flight is a Reading Rockets side that has had a mixed year in their first full campaign with Coach Alan Keane at the helm. Sliding over into hot seat after Manuel Pena Garces' departure, Coach Keane and his squad faced the tough task of trying to improve on their 3rd place finish from a season ago, having lost their two impressive US imports in Jerrod Hendricks and Tim Gill. A tricky start to the season saw Reading take early losses at the hands of Derby and Thames Valley, before finding some form to take a 7-4 record into the festive break. The Rockets had also booked a semi-final place in the National Trophy, but lost out at the hands of their playoff opposition in that one - a 66-91 home loss against the Riders. The up-and-down season continues for the Berkshire-based side, with a 7-8 record the rest of the way which saw the Rockets unable to break into the top four and clinch playoff basketball at the 'Mead. In addition to their loss in the Trophy, Reading were also downed 84-81 on the road at Loughborough in March, but tasted victory against Coach Jarram's side with a 101-86 victory back in December. 


 (4) Thames Valley Cavaliers v (5) Derby Trailblazers 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 6.00pm

Live Stats

The final matchup in the first round of the NBL Division One playoffs sees the Derby Trailblazers head on the road for their return to the post-season after a disappointing 2017/18 campaign. Their hosts in this one are a squad of Division One newcomers who have adjusted incredibly well to a debut season in the top flight, clinching home court advantage after a 16-10 campaign. Coach Robert Banks' Thames Valley Cavaliers have seen a meteoric rise through the ranks of the NBL in recent years since their formation in 2014/15 - taking on Bracknell Cobras' spot in NBL Division Three South. A second-placed finish in 2014/15 saw the Cavs narrowly miss out on promotion, before they clinched an undefeated league title in 2015/16 to progress to NBL Division Two. A successful 18-4 record that year saw Thames Valley edged out of a promotion spot by Kent and Newcastle, but the Cavs repeated that record to move up with Nottingham last campaign and join the top flight. A successful first year in the top division has seen the Cavaliers turning plenty of heads, with the important returning cast bolstered by key additions to create a talented roster. 

Focusing back in on this campaign, Thames Valley certainly had the Trailblazers' number in their two previous meetings, grabbing a 72-83 victory back in December, before an 89-79 win at Uxbridge College in March. Derby themselves have enjoyed a similar rise through the standings, not as meteoric as the Cavaliers but they have made a significant improvement on a 12th placed 6-18 finish a season ago. The additions of US import talent in the form of Malcolm Smith and Tre-Shawn Wilford have bolstered the existing talent of Matt Ward-Hibbert, Kayne King and Oli Stanley; while Blazers were also buoyed by Isa Brandon joining their ranks during the year. With the 4th vs 5th matchup often being the closest to call, Coach Matt Shaw and his squad could potentially cause an upset on Saturday evening if they bring their A game to this potentially tight encounter.


WNBL Division One

 (1) Bristol Academy Flyers v (8) Barking Abbey Crusaders 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 4.00pm

Live Stats

With an anti-climactic end to their regular season clinching the league title, a forfeited game by Loughborough Riders awarded Bristol with the regular season silverware - but no opportunity to truly seal their championship on the court. Coach Gareth Till and his squad will head into the post-season with the chance to do just that, two games away from an opportunity to clinch more silverware as part of the NBL Finals in Manchester. As the pace-setters for much of the season, the Flyers make their way into knockout play with the deserved 1st seed, having led from the front in a talented but congested WNBL Division One. An opening day loss for Bristol came at the hands of their post-season opposition, with Barking Abbey taking a 55-51 home win in late September, one of the Flyers just three losses on the campaign. After that early season disappointment, Coach Till's group went on a nine game win streak to take control at the top of the table, before late losses to Ipswich and Anglia Ruskin added to their tally in the loss column. Bristol were quick to tie up the season series with an impressive performance on their home floor, grabbing a 68-44 victory in December behind 17 points from Cristina Bigica. 

Meanwhile, Barking Abbey also had a relatively anti-climactic end to their regular season as the final day of the league campaign sealed their post-season spot - while Coach Tope Ali-Balogun's side sat at home. Due to the quirks of the WNBL Division One schedule following Oxford and Nottingham's withdrawal's this campaign, Barking's league season ended on Saturday 9 March, a full three weeks before the final day of the regular season. Having wrapped up a 4-14 record on the year, the East London squad had grabbed important head-to-head advantages over their closest competitors, owing in part to an impressive 72-52 win over Team Birmingham in November. The young side from the capital could only sit and wait as both Team Birmingham and Sevenoaks played out their final games of the season - with neither side able to grab that all-important fifth win of the campaign - meaning Barking will see their first post-season action since a 5th place finish in 2016/17. 


 (2) Anglia Ruskin University v (7) Southwark Pride 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 4.00pm

Live Stats

As the leaders of the chasing pack all season long, Anglia Ruskin University were unlucky to come up just short in the title race behind an impressive campaign from Bristol. A three game win streak to start the season was brought to an end by the league champion Flyers, but the Rhinos rallied to win six of their next seven to put themselves firmly in the top position within the pack chasing the league-leaders. Anglia's four losses on the season came against Bristol, Team Solent and twice against Loughborough, as the Rhinos didn't drop a game against anyone outside of the top four. Having returned a strong core from the WNBL Division One playoff champion side that made the improbable run to the title from the 7th seed, the major change in the Anglia Ruskin lineup is the man calling the plays. A mid-season addition of Coach Michael Hanson-Morris from the Nottingham Wildcats WBBL programme sees Coach Matt Harber united with a vital member of his former Leicester Riders WBBL coaching staff, with Coach Hanson-Morris quickly slotting in to lead Anglia to their second placed finish and the crucial victory over Bristol in February that extended the title race right to the final weekend. 

Making the trip out to Cambridge for this 2nd vs 7th matchup is a Southwark Pride squad that has gone through somewhat of a more difficult season following their 2nd place in the last two league campaigns. The young squad formed primarily of City of London Academy athletes has had a tricky year competing at both the WNBL Division One and Under 18 Women's levels, locking up the 2nd seed in the Under 18 South league but struggling at times at the senior level. A key addition to the Southwark lineup has been snatching Amelia Watkins away from the Sevenoaks Suns WBBL programme, providing crucial veteran leadership to the young academy stars around her. The disappointing sub .500 season for the Pride sees them finish 8-10, ending on a 3-6 run since the turn of the year, as Coach Jackson Gibbsons' squad sneaked into the playoffs with a tough road matchup ahead of them. The Rhinos hold season series sweep over Southwark after a 65-60 home win in January, before going 2-0 with a 63-75 win at the City of London Academy in February. Therefore, Coach Gibbons and his side will need an impressive uptick in their performance if they are to pick up an upset road win on Saturday afternoon.


 (3) Team Solent Kestrels v (6) Ipswich 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 4.15pm

Live Stats

Another side that may be disappointed to have not had a greater say in the title race down the stretch is the Team Solent Kestrels who ended the campaign with a 13-5 record to clinch the 3rd seed. After taking home the WNBL Division One title in 2016/17, the Kestrels fell to a 7-15 finish in 10th place last year to miss out on the post-season, so Coach CJ Lee will be happy with the campaign his squad has put together to extend their season into April. The bolstered Team Solent squad has generally been led by the play of Krisztina Velkey, Earleesha Jackson and Andrea Kurkowski, while the real X factor of their season has been US import guard Geena Gomez who has lit up the league with her scoring prowess. After clinching the league title two seasons ago, Coach Lee's side fell at the final hurdle in the WNBL Division One playoff championship game, losing out to Southwark Pride, so this new group will be hungry to make amends and challenge for the post-season title once again. 

In just their second season since being re-added to the Ipswich Basketball Club ranks, the Ipswich senior women's side have clinched a playoff season in their first season back in the top flight. Dropping the senior women's side from their programme after a 6th placed 3-9 finish in WNBL South East back in 2015/16, Ipswich returned to WNBL Division Two North in 2017/18 and enjoyed a magical season that turned plenty of heads. Coach Nick Drane's side completed a historic 23-0 season that saw them go undefeated in all competitions, including the WNBL Division Two North league season and playoffs, while also defeating WNBL Division One opposition en route to the National Cup title. After their promotion to the top flight, the talented Ipswich roster has been brought back down to Earth in a tough league, going through tough stretches where lessons were learned, while picking up enough wins to grab a well-deserved playoff spot. Despite being the lower seed, Ipswich can head into the post-season full of confidence, holding a 2-0 season series victory over Team Solent. On the second weekend of the season, Ipswich earned a 79-84 win on the road at St Mary's behind a 31 point explosion from Harriet Welham, before doubling down back at Copleston in January with a 81-63 triumph that kicked off the second half of the season. This matchup sees two of the best guards in the league go head-to-head, with Harriet Welham and Geena Gomez facing off as two of the top scorers over an arduous league campaign.


 (4) Loughborough Riders v (5) Reading Rockets 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 4.30pm

Live Stats

The final matchup to get the preview treatment in WNBL Division One sees the Loughborough Riders take to their home floor to host the Reading Rockets in a matchup that was very nearly reversed down the stretch of the regular season. As the only team in WNBL Division One to have grabbed silverware thus far this season, the National Cup champion Loughborough Riders head into post-season knockout play off the back of a three game losing streak to close out their regular season - two losses to their playoff rivals sandwiching a forfeit against Bristol. Prior to this tricky stretch, Loughborough had won four of their five previous league matchups to all but seal their top four finish, but a dip in form from Coach Krumesh Patel's side saw them almost drop their home court advantage as Reading made a charge down the stretch.

With a 3-6 record when January came to a close, it was looking like a tough uphill battle for the Rockets, who had just came up short in the National Cup final against Loughborough. However, after starting February with back-to-back losses against top sides, Coach David Sanchez' squad went on a six game unbeaten run to climb the standings and secure a post-season berth. With the season series and head-to-head clinched against the Riders with a 39-49 road win that was followed by a 74-65 home victory a week later, all the Rockets needed was a win over Team Solent on the final day of the regular season to slide into the top four and flip this first round matchup. However, the Kestrels outlasted Reading in a tight 84-86 win behind 23 points from Geena Gomez, meaning the Rockets had to settle for heading on their travels to Leicestershire to kick off their post-season adventure. 


NBL Division Two

 (1) Liverpool v (8) London Westside 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 5.00pm

Live Stats

After wrapping up an undefeated 20-0 league campaign on the final weekend of the season, Liverpool make their way into the post-season with the well deserved 1st seed as the overwhelming favourites for the playoff title. An impressive season as seen numerous members of Coach Delme Herriman's roster step up when needed, with the returning duo of David Ulph and Jack Hudson joined by Kenny Ogunneye and Mark Rangeley, while Kaphel Ulett-Waul made the mid-season switch back to Merseyside after a stint in the top flight with Manchester Magic. The only blemishes on the North West side's eye-catching season is their defeats in knockout competition - which doesn't bode well for the survive and advance nature of the playoffs. In National Cup play, Liverpool grabbed an upset win over Derby Trailblazers to progress to the Last 16, but lost out on their home floor against the Thames Valley Cavaliers. Meanwhile, in the Patrons Cup, Westminster travelled to Archbishop Beck in January and grabbed an 85-95 semi-final victory as they went on to take the silverware in February against Ipswich. With London Westside unlikely to pose a significant threat against the dominant Merseysiders, Coach Herriman and his squad will need to be sufficiently prepared for the later rounds where Westminster, United and Sussex will all be looking forward to taking a shot at the league champions. 

On the flip side, London Westside had to fight tooth and nail to earn their spot in the post-season and extend their season into April after a difficult regular season campaign. An opening day loss against their playoff foes saw Westside take a 101-69 defeat at Archbishop Beck in October, before Coach Frank Lamptey's side bounced back to defeat London United the following weekend. What followed was a 1-11 stretch, with a solitary victory over Greenwich the only points that Westside would pick up prior to the stretch run in March. With a 2-12 record entering the final month of the season, Coach Lamptey had seen his team close the game but not get over the hump, with three single digits losses throughout January and February. A newly bolstered roster saw the additions of Mansour Mbye, Santiago Leon and Donald Morris alongside the existing young talents of Abiodun Adedo and Levi Edwards, as Westside compiled a new-look squad to stave off relegation. What followed is probably the most impressive run of any team in the NBL, as Westside completed an undefeated month of March, going 5-0 to earn a 7-12 record on the season and grab the 8th seed on the final day of the season. Buoyed by this late success, Westside will head into this road playoff matchup as significant underdogs, but full of confidence in their new-look roster that lost out just 82-86 against Liverpool in February. 


 (2) Westminster Warriors v (7) East London All Stars 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 5.30pm

Live Stats

As one of only two teams to take down Liverpool this season, the Westminster Warriors head into the post-season hoping to set up a titanic matchup of the top two NBL Division Two sides to decide the title in Manchester. Having earned promotion alongside the Merseysiders with a 14-5 record, Coach Jon Johnson's squad take a hard-earned 2nd seed into the post-season after an impressive campaign. An opening day slip up against Greenwich sparked a refocused Westminster squad to win 10 of their next 11 games - their only loss coming on the road at Liverpool. After further losses to Sussex, Ipswich and Liverpool once again, the Warriors finished the season on a three game streak to build confidence heading into post-season play. As the only side in the league to have tasted the success of silverware so far this year, Westminster will hope to add an NBL Division Two playoff championship to their Patrons Cup title earned back in February when their second half explosion downed Ipswich. 

Despite their vastly differing league campaigns, the East London All Stars will be buoyed by this matchup, having played Westminster extremely close back in November. Coach Jon Johnson's side picked up a 75-76 win at UEL Sportsdock back in the autumn of 2018, as he and Justin Hitchman combined for 49 points. Jonathan James led all scorers with 29 points on that occasion, as the two-way young London Lions' guard put in one of his many explosive performances for Coach Dave Greenaway. A remodelled lineup has seen the All Stars go through plenty of changes since reaching the NBL Division Three playoff final a season ago. A surprise promotion into Division Two to replace Essex Leopards (who in turn replaced the withdrawing Team Northumbria) meant Coach Greenaway would take the reigns in the NBL's second tier in his first season with the programme following his tenure at Nottingham Wildcats coming to an end. The All Stars programme with strong links to both UEL and NASSA came under the helm of the London Lions' programme for the first time, to allow players like Jonathan James and Aaron Badibo to join the East London squad, a move that strengthened their NBL Division Two squad alongside top BUCS level scholars such as big man Kyle Gouveia. Following the tight matchup at UEL Sportsdock in November, Westminster made a point of clinching the return game at Moberley Sports Centre in February when 23 points from Justin Hitchman helped the Warriors to a 85-70 victory to sweep the season series. 


 (3) London United v (6) London Greenhouse Pioneers 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 4.00pm

Live Stats

In the 3rd vs 6th matchup we have another all-capital matchup, as Pioneers who find their home in Central London head west to face London United. In their first season in NBL Division Two after a takeover of Middlesex LTBC, Coach Daniel Szatkowski's programme finished with a strong 11-9 record in a highly congested middle of the table. With 3rd through 7th separated by just two wins as the regular season came to a close, United grabbed the results they needed to clinch home court advantage and earned the 3rd seed by virtue of their head-to-head against Sussex Bears - a vital distinction, to potentially avoid a second round matchup with Liverpool. The United campaign has been as mixed as their roster this year, with the existing LTBC roster from a season ago coming alongside the rising talents of the Alec Reed Academy EABL programme for a real mix of veterans with up-and-coming stars. 

Heading into this one as the underdogs are a London Greenhouse Pioneers side that have really had a Jekyll and Hyde season, falling down the table in the second half of the campaign to drop to the 6th seed. Having kicked off the season with back-to-back losses against Myerscough and Westminster, Coach Predrag Krneta's squad found a rich of vein of form as November began, going two whole months undefeated; heading into the festive break with a 7-2 record. However, after the turn of the year it became clear that Greenhouse were struggling to rediscover their form as they went on a five game losing streak, including a 30 point blowout loss against Greenwich (who then were firmly rooted to the foot of the standings). A win over Derbyshire broke the streak of losses, but the Pioneers went 2-3 the rest of the way to end their season with a .500 record at 10-10. Greenhouse's undefeated November included a 67-71 road win over United, but Coach Szatkowski's squad returned the favour and clinched the head-to-head with a 70-75 win at CitySport in February - the final game in the Pioneers five game losing streak to start 2019. With two close matchups in the books, and just one win separating the two sides over the league campaign - we could be in with a close one at Alec Reed on Saturday afternoon. 


 (4) Sussex Bears v (5) Myerscough College 

Saturday 6 April 2019 - 5.00pm

Live Stats

In a real South vs North encounter for the 4th vs 5th matchup, the Southern-most NBL Division Two side in Sussex Bears will play host to Myerscough College, who make the long trip down from Lancashire for this one. A single win separated the two sides in the regular season, and earns Sussex home court advantage to welcome Myerscough down to the Bearcage at Sir Robert Woodard Academy. The south coast squad finished just short of a post-season appearance last campaign, so Coach Gary Smith will be pleased by such an improved regular season that earned the Bears a top four finish behind the play of a strong returning core and the addition of a star import. Long-time members of the Bears' squad in the form of James Felstead, Dom Baker, Joe Carter, James Brame and Tomas Seduikis have made up the core of Coach Smith's side this campaign, while US import forward Cordaris Townes has grabbed the headlines with his explosive scoring performances. Earning the NBL Player of the Week award numerous times this season, Townes has clearly been a difference maker, leading Sussex in scoring and rebounding on numerous occasions. 

Meanwhile, earning the 5th seed in their debut season in NBL Division Two after an all-conquering year at the Division Three level a season ago, the young stars of Myerscough College have adjusted well to the second tier and were unlucky not clinch a top four finish. Having to settle for heading on the road for their post-season play, Coach Neal Hopkins' side finished with a solid 10-10 record, but had a tough time gathering any momentum and consistency in a tough congested division. The young rising talents at the Lancashire-based academy showed vast improvement throughout the season, shown in plenty of facets - including the head-to-head results against their playoff foes. Back in November, Sussex were able to clinch a 71-63 home victory behind 22 points apiece from Coradaris Townes and Bud Johnston, but fast-forwarding to February it was Myerscough who earned a 70-67 win. The returning Great Britain junior international back-court of Callan Low and Mate Okros has been well supported by newcomers Bradley Kaboza and Corey Samuels, while the new-look front-court of Samuel Keita and Sanmi Fajana will do their best to slow down Townes when the playoffs get underway on Saturday evening. 


Around the NBL Playoffs

Division Three Men

(N1) University of Chester v (S4) Essex Blades - Saturday 6 April 2019 - 6:00pm

(N2) Team Derby Spartans v (S3) Bristol UWE Flyers II - Sunday 7 April 2019 - 4:00pm

(S2) Team Solent Kestrels II v (N3) Derby Trailblazers II - Saturday 6 April 2019 - 1:30pm

(S1) London BC Medelynas v (N4) Team Birmingham Elite - Saturday 6 April 2019 - 6:00pm


Division Two Women

(N1) Nottingham Trent University v (S4) Brighton Basketball - Saturday 6 2019 - 6:45pm

(N2) Derby Trailblazers v (S3) West Herts Warriors - Sunday 7 April 2019 - 4:15pm

(S2) London 'South Bank' Thunder v (N3) Worcester Wolves - Sunday 7 April 2019 - 5:00pm

(S1) Thames Valley Cavaliers v (N4) Derbyshire Diamonds - Saturday 6 April 2019 - 3:00pm


Division Four Men

(SW1) Bristol Hurricanes v (SW3) RCT Gladiators - Saturday 6 April  2019 - 5:30pm

(SE4) Richmond Knights v (N2) Doncaster Danum Eagles - Saturday 6 April 2019 - 5:30pm

(SE1) Chelmsford Lions v (SW2) Huish Taunton Tigers - Saturday 6 April 2019 - 6:30pm

(M4) Nottingham Trent Hoods v (SE2) London Thunder Lewisham - Saturday 6 April 2019 - 6:30pm


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