PREVIEW - Loughborough take over the NBL with home double-header this weekend!

NBL Division One

 Loughborough Riders v Barking Abbey Crusaders 

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 2.00pm

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An impressive victory on the road at John Madejski Academy last weekend saw Loughborough Riders punch their ticket to the National Trophy final. With the East Midlands side having already picked up the National Cup title, Coach Mark Jarram's side could be well on their way to another piece of silverware when they meet Worthing Thunder at UEL Sportsdock next weekend. The Riders got their business done on the road at Reading with a bunch of different contributors, as all five starters scored in double figures. Pacing the way was recent NBL Player Spotlight athlete Lucien Cristofis, who finished with 19 points and two rebounds. The Loughborough Riders are our NBL Takeover team this weekend, so follow @NBLengland to check out the action at their home-and-home double-header.

The visitors in this one are a Barking Abbey Crusaders side that is coming off a mixed weekend double-header on the road, as they dropped their Saturday night contest at Thames Valley, before bouncing back in the North West to defeat Manchester Magic. The split weekend leaves the Crusaders at 6-9 on the season, just one win out of the eighth and final playoff spot. A good result in this tough road match-up could bump Barking up into a playoff position for the first time this season, something Coach Lloyd Gardner and his side will be working hard towards down the stretch. However, with a 30 point blowout to their name the last time these two faced off in East London, the visitors will need to bring a big effort to be in with a chance in this one. 


 Reading Rockets v Leicester Warriors

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 5.00pm

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The side that bowed out of the competition to pave the Riders way to the National Trophy final was the Reading Rockets, after a disappointing offensive performance in front of their home fans. Both of the Berkshire-based side's US imports made their presence felt as AJ Carr and Trae Pemberton led with 23 points and 15 points, respectively, but there was little contribution on the scoreboard from the rest of the roster. Coach Alan Keane and his squad will now refocus on a league campaign that sees them in amongst it at the business end of the table, with a 9-5 record, still within touching distance of the top dogs and with a great chance of securing home court advantage.

The Leicester Warriors head into this match-up off the back of a tough recent schedule that has seen them face two of the top five over their last two games, losing out to both Derby and Worthing. With the difficult run of fixtures not getting any easier with a trip to fourth-placed Reading, Coach Karl Brown and his side will need to weather the storm with two home games against bottom four teams to come after this weekend. A remodelled line-up has seen Brian Orr depart the Warriors' roster, while Coach Brown has added Raphell Thomas-Edwards, Carl Pearon and Taylor Johnson in recent weeks. As the East Midlands' side begin to build chemistry with their new pieces, they should be able to stay safe in the top flight and potentially challenge for the last playoff spot down the stretch.


 Manchester Magic v Team Solent Kestrels 

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 6.30pm

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A season to forget for Manchester Magic did not get any easier last weekend as they fell to their 10th straight league loss as an 1-14 record keeps them firmly rooted to the bottom of the table. Facing off against a Barking Abbey side completing a back-to-back, the North West squad may have felt confident of pinching a result - and came very close, trailing by just three points in the latter stages of the contest. Losing out in a close one last weekend, the tasks for Coach Simon Fisher's side do not get any tougher than this, as they welcome the league-leading Team Solent Kestrels to the Manchester Basketball Centre.

Making their way North for this one are a Kestrels side remain atop the table, as they have done all season, but with very little room for error the rest of the way. Any slip-up is likely to be capitalised on by the chasing pack, of which Worthing and Thames Valley are the closest, as the Kestrels are only one game up on their nearest competition. Having put in a dominant performance on the road last weekend, Coach Marr Guymon's side will likely be well up for another road trip, hoping for another star showing from US guard Herm Senor II. When these two sides faced off at Places Leisure Eastleigh, it was not a pretty sight for the Magic, as Nick Lewis went off for 31 points in a lop-sided victory for the south coast squad.


 Hemel Storm v Team Newcastle 

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 7.00pm

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Without a game last weekend, Hemel Storm head into this one well-rested, but in desperate need of a result. Sitting just above the Manchester Magic at 3-9 on the season, Hemel have a long way to go if they are to pick up the victories they need to secure safety in the top flight. In this one, they face a Team Newcastle side just two wins above them, a real opportunity to grab a result against a fellow bottom four squad. Coach Robert Youngblood's side will hope for a repeat performance from Leome Francis, who dominated inside last time out en route to 25 points. Joining Francis on the inside for the Storm is deadline day signing TrayVonn Wright who recently left the Leicester Riders BBL squad - a big move as Hemel bolster their side for the second half of the season. 

Making the long trip down to Hertfordshire from the North East is a Team Newcastle side coming off a loss at the hands of Derby Trailblazers last weekend. Continuing to put in key performances was Nikola Urli, who led his side with 15 points in that one. With Newcastle 5-9 on the season, just two wins above the bottom two, this is a key match-up for Coach Ian Hewitt's side - with a positive result putting some breathing room between them and the regulation zone. 


Derby Trailblazers v Essex Leopards 

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 7.15pm

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The Derby Trailblazers needed a second half comeback last weekend against Team Newcastle, as they made things difficult on their way to extending their win streak to two games. Matt Ward-Hibbert has had a solid few outings since missing time with injury, and he came off the bench for the Blazers to lead them with 21 points against the North East squad. Having solidified their place in the top five with their two recent wins, Coach Matt Shaw and his squad will hope they can keep this streak alive to continue climbing the table in search of a top four finish. 

Making the trip to the Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre for this one is an Essex Leopards that enjoyed a weekend off last week, in the midst of a very busy schedule for the Big Cats. Opening up their double-header on the road in the East Midlands, Coach Thomas Baker will be a four-game win streak doesn't end here, as the Leopards have climbed up off the lower rungs of the standings to now hold on to the eighth and final playoff spot with a .500 record. Having starred in recent wins, Coach Baker will hope for the dynamic play off the wing to continue from Luke Mascall-Wright and Asante Sandiford, both key pieces in the Big Cats success throughout January.


Worthing Thunder v Bradford Dragons 

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 7.30pm

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The final game of a busy Saturday in NBL Division One sees Worthing Thunder play host to Bradford Dragons on the south coast. Worthing return to the Thunderdome after a successful weekend which saw them defeat Leicester to continue to put pressure on Solent in the league, before heading to the Dragons Den to book their place in the National Trophy final. Needing the result to maintain pace with the Kestrels, player-coach Josh Goddard and his squad will head into this one knowing its no easy task, but will be spurred on by a raucous crowd on the south coast. 

Meanwhile, this Bradford team make the journey down to Sussex with a chip on their shoulder and a point to prove after being knocked out of the National Trophy just one week ago. A battle between two sides with limitless offensive firepower saw the Thunder edge ahead in the third as they found their rhythm and poured in the points. However, Coach Chris Mellor can be proud of his squad's effort down the stretch to cut into the lead, but it wasn't to be as they couldn't quite get back into the contest. 


 Loughborough Riders v Nottingham McDonalds Hoods 

Sunday 3 February 2019 - 2.00pm

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Tipping off Sunday's action, the Loughborough Riders complete their double-header in front of both their home fans, and the entire NBL following as our takeover team of the week. Following their match-up with Barking Abbey, an East Midlands derby is on the cards for Riders fans, as the National Cup champions play host to Nottingham McDonalds Hoods. Yet to play each other this season, this one will be a bit of an unknown quantity for Coach Mark Jarram and his side, but they surely will have done their research on a team often led by impactful US import forward Cole Welle. 

Looking to bounce back from a disappointing home loss against Team Solent last weekend, Coach Ryan Westley's Hoods side will fancy their chances of an upset in this one, against the team directly above them in the standings. With a 2-2 record since the turn of the year, Coach Westley's squad have struggled for consistency in their results, but in a congested Division One table, just a couple of results going their way could spell a move into top five in the table. 


Worthing Thunder v Hemel Storm 

Sunday 3 February 2019 - 3.00pm

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Completing their home back-to-back are a Worthing Thunder side that welcome Hemel Storm. Having hopefully had the Thunderdome rocking the night before for their match-up against Bradford, a rare Sunday afternoon fixture for the Thunder fans should have them hoping for a good result, as second-bottom faces second from top. Similarly, Hemel are completing a double-header of their own, having hoped to have grabbed a key result against Team Newcastle the night prior. A tough match-up on the Sussex coast will need Coach Robert Youngblood's guys to give their all to be in with a chance of pinching this one. 


 Essex Leopards v Manchester Magic 

Sunday 3 February 2019 - 4.00pm

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The final game of a very busy NBL Division One weekend has two further teams completing double-headers, as the Magic head on the road down to the Brentwood Centre for a Sunday afternoon contest. Having previously played out an exciting National Cup quarter-final against Manchester in front of their fans in Brentwood, the Big Cats will be hoping for a similar result, returning home from their road game in Derby. The task ahead of the Leopards to claim the playoff spot they currently hold is to grab results to keep pace with those around them, while the Magic have a much tougher road ahead down the stretch. Coach Simon Fisher's squad will need to pick up wins, and find ways to get them quickly, if they are to maintain their NBL Division One status for next season.


WNBL Division One

 Ipswich v Reading Rockets 

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 3.00pm

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The action in WNBL Division One tips off on Saturday afternoon at Copleston Sports Centre as Ipswich face recent National Cup runners-up, Reading Rockets. Last weekend saw the Suffolk-based side impress in front of their home fans as they grabbed a solid win over Sevenoaks Suns II, improving to 6-5 on the season as they claim fourth place. Going undefeated since the Christmas break, the horizon is looking bright for Coach Nick Drane's squad as they climb up the standings towards the business end of this campaign.

Meanwhile, Reading head over to East Anglia to face an Ipswich side that they have not yet played this season, hoping to bounce back from a disappointing result last weekend. Coach David Sanchez' side fell to a tough overtime loss at home against Southwark Pride, as the London squad outlasted them in the extra period, despite heroics from Monica Herranz De Antonio to tie things up at the end of regulation. Herranz De Antonio was the star for the Rockets in that one, dropping 25 points, only to be outdone by a 31 point effort from Pride guard Megan Haines. 


 Southwark Pride v Anglia Ruskin University 

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 4.00pm

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Having outlasted Reading Rockets in the aforementioned overtime thriller last weekend, Southwark Pride head into this weekend full of confidence as they face the tough task of welcoming second-placed Anglia Ruskin University to the City of London Academy. A mixed season has seen Southwark struggle to grab consistent results; as such, Coach Jackson Gibbons' squad hold a 6-6 record and are in sixth place in the WNBL Division One standings. However, the recent play of their young talented back-court shows their is hope they can make some moves down the stretch, especially if lead guard Megan Haines is able to keep up her eye-catching numbers.

Making the trip into the capital from Cambridge is an Anglia Ruskin side that has gone undefeated since the turn of the year, with new head coach Michael Hanson-Morris now in tow and making moves to challenge Bristol at the top of the standings. Tied on two losses at the top of the ladder, the Rhinos and Flyers are in a neck-and-neck race as things heat up down the stretch. Needing to stay perfect to add the WNBL Division One regular season title to their post-season success from a season ago, expect ARU to bring their A game in this one in a tough road matchup.


 Sevenoaks Suns II v Team Birmingham Elite 

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 5.30pm

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Victories have been few and far between this season for a young, developing Sevenoaks Suns II roster that is playing its first season in the top flight. However, the 3-9 Kent-based side head into this one as the favourites, sitting just above Birmingham in the WNBL Division One standings. A rough loss last time out, notably without star guard Katie Bennett, saw the Suns go down against Ipswich - but there positive contributions across the board with a balanced scoring effort that was led by 10 points from Olivia Partridge. 

Meanwhile, Team Birmingham Elite continue to hold onto the bottom spot in the standings, after a tough loss against a talented Bristol Academy Flyers squad last time out. The West Midlands side have had a rough campaign, but this game presents a real opportunity for them to double their win tally, against the youth of a Suns side finding their feet. Rebecca Brindley got back to the top of the leading scorers list for Elite last weekend, dropping 22 points in the loss to Bristol, while Lucy Buxton and Sandra Hewakowska also scored in double figures. 


 IpswichBarking Abbey 

Sunday 3 February 2019 - 3.00pm

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The lone Sunday matchup, and final game of the WNBL Division One weekend, sees Ipswich complete a home double-header as Barking Abbey make the journey from East London to Suffolk. Hoping to maintain their undefeated run throughout early 2019, Coach Nick Drane's side will have to bring it on back-to-back days, as Barking bring with them some key threats - despite their 4-9 record thus far. With two wins to their name since the New Year, one by virtue of a forfeit, Coach Tope Ali-Balogun's Barking squad have seen an upturn in their fortunes that he will hope they can carry forward into this Sunday afternoon contest.


NBL Division Two

 Sussex Bears v London United 

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 5.00pm

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Sussex Bears' win-streak came to an end a week ago at the hands of Liverpool, as the undefeated league-leaders used a momentous second-half comeback to earn the spoils in a game that the Bears had full control of. Faltering down the stretch on the offensive end, Coach Gary Smith's squad allowed the Merseysiders to get back into things late on, as the south coast side gave up the best chance any team has had thus far to take down Liverpool in the league. Despite the final result, the Bears can be buoyed by the continued impressive play of Cordaris Townes, who paced his side with 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Meanwhile, it was a much simpler outing for London United last weekend, who cruised to victory against London Westside behind a massive 28 point scoring effort in the third quarter. Daniel Szatkowski finished with 24 points to lead United to their fifth win of the season, as the West London squad evened out their record at 5-5 to hold on to sixth place. A win here for United would see them equal the record of the Bears as they build their case to take a top four position at the season's end.


 Ipswich v Derbyshire Arrows 

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 5.30pm

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An exciting double-header weekend for Ipswich a week ago saw them bounce back from a narrow loss on their home floor against East London All Stars to book their place in the Patrons Cup final with a win over London Greenhouse Pioneers. The in-form Pioneers led 94-90 in the closing stages, before Ipswich scored the final nine points of the game to win 94-99 and punch their ticket to UEL Sportsdock for the final next weekend. Ethan Price continues to turn heads with his play this season, as the Ipswich Basketball Academy forward stole the show with 32 points and 10 rebounds in the Patrons Cup semi-final victory.

Heading on the road to Copleston Sports Centre is a Derbyshire Arrows side that used the comforts of home to pick up a deserved victory over Greenwich Titans last weekend, their first success of early 2019. Pulling away in the second quarter to lead for the rest of the contest, Coach Jonny Kelly's side got a massive contribution as usual from forward Joseph Baugh who poured in 29 points to lead his Arrows squad. 


 London Westside v Myerscough College 

Saturday 2 February 2019 - 6.15pm

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The tough season for London Westside continued last weekend, as they lost out on the road at London United as they could never really keep pace with their host's scoring. With a few new faces in tow, Coach Frank Lamptey now has a couple more weapons to play with down the stretch, so he will be hoping that his side can pick up some results to begin moving up the table and away from the bottom two spots. 

Meanwhile, NBL Division Two newcomers Myerscough College have settled in well and hold a 5-6 record in seventh place as things stand. Last time out, Myerscough picked up an impressive win against third-placed London Greenhouse Pioneers, behind 20 points from guard Mate Okros. Last time these two sides faced off back in late October, Okros was again the key man, pacing Myerscough to a blowout victory with 22 points. 


 London Greenhouse Pioneers v Westminster Warriors 

Sunday 3 February 2019 - 1.30pm

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A storming run throughout November and December has come back down to Earth for London Greenhouse Pioneers, as they have gone 0-2 in the league since the turn of the year, while also falling out of the Patrons Cup in their semi-final loss against Ipswich. A disappointing run to say the least for Coach Predrag Krneta's squad will have them re-energised for the stretch run of the season, as they look to solidify their place in the top four and seal home advantage in the playoffs.

Also looking to maintain a top four place are the Pioneers opposition in this one, a Westminster Warriors side full of confidence fresh off knocking Liverpool out of the Patrons Cup at the semi-final stage. The reigning Patrons Cup champions now return the final to defend their title, and will hope to be joined by a raucous Warriors following at UEL Sportsdock next Sunday. Currently holding a 9-2 league record, in sole ownership of the second spot in the standings, Westminster will look to stay perfect down the stretch and hope for slip-ups from the all-conquering Merseyside squad.


 East London All Stars v Liverpool 

Sunday 3 February 2019 - 5.00pm

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The final game of the NBL Division Two weekend sees UEL Sportsdock host an exciting league matchup ahead of the venue opening its doors to plenty of NBL fans next weekend for the Senior Cup Finals. East London All Stars head into this one having bounced back from back-to-back losses to start 2019, as last weekend they narrowly defeated Ipswich on the road behind 28 points from Kyle Gouveia. 

Meanwhile, a disappointed Liverpool side will be frustrated to not have a chance at silverware next weekend after being knocked out of the Patrons Cup, so will refocus their efforts on continuing what has been an historic league season thus far in Division Two. As Coach Delme Herriman's squad continues their impressive run, the question will be begin to be asked: will anyone defeat Liverpool in league play this season? With plenty of weapons to their name, it will be a tough ask for any team to slow down the pace-setters as the rest of the season plays out. 


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