PREVIEW - Penultimate weekend of the NBL regular season!

NBL Division One

 Thames Valley Cavaliers 80 v 77 Manchester Magic 

Thursday 21 March 2019 - 8.15pm

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For the first time this season, this week's NBL Preview starts with a review - after a rare Thursday night matchup in NBL Division One. With a rescheduled game to fit in before the culmination of the league season, the Cavaliers decided to head on the road to the Manchester Basketball Centre for a midweek contest to ensure that they could fit in their 'home' game before the regular season climax next weekend. The Magic took to the floor in their retro blue jerseys hoping for a close affair, after falling to just an eight point loss to Thames Valley back in November. An even closer contest saw the two sides separated by five points or fewer for the majority of the game, until the Cavs pulled away for a 13 point advantage late in the third when they led 61-48. The Magic reeled off a 17-4 run that tied the game at 65-65 with 7:37 remaining, before a Ryan Lewis triple gave them their only lead of the second half at 67-68. Coach Roberts Banks' squad responded with a 9-2 spurt, with Martelle McLemore getting to the rim to give Thames Valley a 76-70 lead. Kayin Darbey and Andre Gayle responded with back-to-back buckets, making it a one possession game, before Prince Lartey and then McLemore held their nerve at the line to maintain the lead. Manchester had a shot at forcing overtime, but to the agony of the crowd at the MBC, Andre Gayle's prayer was not answered. 

Martelle McLemore had an outstanding scoring performance on the night, shooting 14-26 and knocking down five triples on his way to 39 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals. Abdoulaye Sylla added a double-double of 13 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, while Charles Acquah-Davis provided a spark off the bench with a double-double of his own, chipping in 12 points, 11 rebounds and two assists. Manchester leant on their inside presence in this one, with US import big man Jonathan Barnes leading the way with 19 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, while Richard Bell supported with 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Ryan Lewis contributed 14 points, three rebounds and three assists, while skipper Danny Pilkington came off the bench for seven points and six rebounds. 


 Barking Abbey Crusaders v Team Newcastle 

Saturday 23 March 2019 - 6.00pm

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The relegation battle comes right down the wire this weekend as the two teams fighting for survival in NBL Division One match up in East London, with a win for the Crusaders confirming their place in the top flight next campaign. Coach Lloyd Gardner's squad hold a slim advantage in the race for 12th place, with their 7-17 record giving a two point cushion over the 6-17 side from the North East. Crucially, Barking also hold the head-to-head after their 70-74 victory back in December, so a win would clinch the tie-breaker for the Crusaders, along with a four point lead in the standings.

Just two games remain for Coach Ian Hewitt's side after this weekend, so a loss would spell the end of their battle to remain in Division One, but a road win by five points or more opens up a number of permutations that could see them stay up. The Tyneside squad will need to bounce back after a difficult loss against the title-chasing Team Solent Kestrels, a contest where Eric Stafford and Onyekachi Nzerem found their touch but Newcastle struggled to slow down the high-scoring south coast squad. The trip to the capital also sees young Eagles Academy product Tosan Evbuomwan go head-to-head with a number of his Great Britain Under 18 teammates from this past summer, so there is sure to be bragging rights up for grabs as well as the crucial league points. 


 Loughborough Riders v Reading Rockets 

Saturday 23 March 2019 - 6.00pm

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The action continues on Saturday evening with an encounter between two top six teams, as the National Cup champion Loughborough Riders take the floor to host the Reading Rockets. In a matchup of two of the powerhouse teams in NBL Division One, the Riders enter with four games remaining to bolster their chances of securing the third seed, with contests against Hemel, Leicester and Bradford to follow this tie. The encounter with Hemel Storm will see Loughborough straight back in action on Sunday as Coach Mark Jarram's squad completes a home-and-home double-header this weekend. 

Heading on the road to Loughborough is a Reading side coming off three narrow losses, a rough spell that has significantly hurt their chances of a top four finish. Most recently, Coach Alan Keane's squad suffered a 121-116 road loss at the hands of Hemel in a high-scoring matchup where the Rockets faltered despite a strong start to the game. With just three games remaining, Reading follow this matchup with the Riders with two games against non-playoff teams - so their hopes of climbing up the standings to earn home court advantage remain a possibility, but they will need two wins from two over their double-header this weekend.


 Nottingham McDonalds Hoods v Leicester Warriors 

Saturday 23 March 2019 - 6.30pm

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The East Midlands continues to be the centre of the action on Saturday evening, as the Wildcats Arena plays host to Nottingham looking to get back in amongst the race for the final playoff spot, following a weekend off. The refreshed Hoods squad get back on their home floor a fortnight after a disappointing loss to fellow playoff hopefuls Hemel Storm, the third loss on the bounce for Coach Ryan Westley's side. Two games back from the eighth spot with three games remaining, its starting to look like the Hoods will come up just short in their debut campaign in NBL Division One, but a win here against their region rivals would earn major bragging rights - especially if Nottingham can grab an eight point victory to swing the head-to-head in their favour.

Meanwhile, Leicester make the short journey over to Nottingham for this one coming off a narrow home win against Barking Abbey last time out. Leading by two heading into the fourth quarter of that one, Coach Karl Brown's squad put together a clutch performance to keep the Crusaders at bay and confirm an important result that maintained their eighth-placed position. With an 11-13 record as things stands, the Warriors have two games remaining to confirm their playoff berth, and with a tough game to come against third-placed Loughborough; this game against Nottingham might be their final shot at a significant win to end the regular season. 


 Manchester Magic v Hemel Storm 

Saturday 23 March 2019 - 6.30pm

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Manchester will follow up their Thursday night loss against the Cavaliers by taking the court once again in front of their home fans to take on the Hemel Storm. Just two chances remain for Coach Simon Fisher and his side to add to their two win tally on the season, as time ticks down to bring an end to a torrid year for the North West squad. Despite the overall record, the young Magic outfit have shown significant development in the last few weeks, aside from an under-manned loss on the road at Worthing, picking up one win and four single digit losses in their last eight encounters. Still looking to build on the progress of their up-and-coming talent, Magic fans will have their sights well and truly set on a better year in Division Two next campaign. 

The Magic play host to a visiting Hemel side that still have all to play for in the Division One playoff race, just two points behind the eighth spot as things stand. It has been an incredible season for Coach Robert Youngblood's side, picking up plenty of narrow losses to start the season, before finding their groove and bolstering their roster as of late. It may be too little, too late when it comes to earning a post-season berth this season, but the growth of this Hemel team will no doubt have the Stormtroopers hopeful of another campaign which brings silverware to Hertfordshire next year. 


 Derby Trailblazers v Worthing Thunder 

Saturday 23 March 2019 - 7.15pm

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The late games on Saturday night begin with Derby playing host to Worthing in an intriguing top five matchup, a tricky game for the visitors which could have serious a bearing on the destination of the league title. The Blazers enter this one amid a three game slump, a tricky set of recent results that has seen them drop out of the top four. With this game the first of two remaining fixtures for Coach Matt Shaw and his side, time is ticking for Derby to ensure that the Clarence Wiggins Centre sees some post-season action this year.

Worthing head on the road off the back of a record setting weekend which saw the Thunder scored 100+ points on back-to-back nights, buoyed by incredible numbers from star Zaire Taylor. Falling one steal shy of a quadruple-double in the rout of Manchester on Saturday night, the US import guard got the numbers he needs on the defensive end against Loughborough the following day - on his way to earning NBL Player of the Week honours for a spectacular weekend. The maths remains simple for Coach Josh Goddard's side - the only way to remain in the hunt for the title is a perfect finish and hope for a Team Solent slip-up down the stretch. 


 Team Solent Kestrels v Bradford Dragons 

Saturday 23 March 2019 - 7.30pm

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Team Solent Kestrels round out Saturday's action with a late night tip on the south coast as they welcome Bradford Dragons down from West Yorkshire. Despite losses to Worthing and Derby in February, the Kestrels remain still fully in control of their destiny - needing a perfect finish to the league campaign to ensure the league title finds its home at Places Leisure Eastleigh. Fully focused on claiming the silverware that they so narrowly missed out on last season, Team Solent have been on a tear as of late - pulling off a six game win-streak, which includes pouring in 100+ points in their last three contests. 

The visiting Dragons' side have rediscovered some of their early season form recently, after a torrid start to 2019. The West Yorkshire squad looked like a playoff certainty over the first two months of the season as they cruised through the National Trophy pool stage, along with starting the Division One regular season with a 5-0 record. However, their slide began when the calendar flipped over, having to wait until March to pick up their first win after the festive break. A recent four game win streak has seen Coach Chris Mellor's squad go unbeaten thus far through March, now just one win back from the final playoff spot. A couple of wins in their final three leagues could easily see Bradford book in another trip to the south coast to face either Solent or Worthing in the first round of the playoffs. 


 Essex Leopards v Thames Valley Cavaliers 

Sunday 24 March 2019 - 4.00pm

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In a busy week that included playing their 'home' game on the road at the Manchester Basketball Centre, Thames Valley Cavaliers will make the shorter trip out to Essex on Sunday as the Leopards play the first of two final home games which sees them return to the Brentwood Centre. It has been a tricky few weeks for Coach Thomas Baker's squad who head into this one having lost four of their last five, a rough run which has seen them slide down the league standings. With a 12-12 record that maintains the Big Cats' seventh place position, the hosts in this one can't afford for their slump to continue with Leicester, Bradford and Hemel all breathing down their neck.

Making the journey over from West London, the Cavaliers have picked up back-to-back wins over the last week, grabbing crucial victories over Derby and Manchester. In an eye-catching first season in the top flight, Thames Valley have done extremely well to hold the fourth place in the standings with a 15-8 record thus far. Still with a chance at locking up a top three finish, the Cavs have three games remaining to get it done and pick up more impressive results to solidify their chances at avoiding the league winners in the second round. 


 Loughborough Riders v Hemel Storm 

Sunday 24 March 2019 - 4.30pm

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Sunday's action also sees Loughborough complete their double-header weekend in front of their home fans, with a significant chance of picking up a couple of vital wins in their quest to book in the third spot. The Riders will head into this one full of confidence, having knocked off Hemel 62-104 on the road last Saturday, as Coach Mark Jarram's side limited star big man TrayVonn Wright to just 13 points. The former Riders man was restricted in front of the Stormtroopers, but will face an emotional return to the East Midlands on Sunday, returning to the program he called home for so long in the BBL. Hemel complete their own double-header with this Sunday afternoon road trip, desperately in need of results to keep their post-season dream alive. 


 Reading Rockets v Team Newcastle 

Sunday 24 March 2019 - 5.00pm

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NBL Division One's action for this weekend wraps up on Sunday evening when Reading and Newcastle complete their double-header weekends, each with differing but vital motivations for needing this result. A loss on Saturday evening for Newcastle will confirm relegation for the North East side, while a win maintains their hopes of survival and makes this matchup with Reading all the more important. However, the context with which Coach Ian Hewitt's side enters this game will not effect the Rockets from desperately needing this result as they hunt a top four finish. With the 'Mead having played host to playoff basketball each of the last three seasons, Reading will hope they can pinch the results they need to crack into the top four and sure up home court advantage for when the playoffs commence. 


WNBL Division One

 Bristol Academy Flyers v Loughborough Riders 

Saturday 23 March 2019 - 3.30pm

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WNBL Division One action tips off with a crucial matchup on Saturday afternoon, with Bristol Academy Flyers facing off against Loughborough with the chance to secure the league title with a win. It has been tight at the top throughout this campaign, and the title race comes right down to Bristol's final game of the season. The maths is easy for Coach Gareth Till and his squad - a win secures the silverware, while a loss sends the trophy to Cambridge; Anglia Ruskin crucially hold the head-to-head over the Flyers. 

Meanwhile, the Riders look to be safely locked into the fourth spot, but could still be caught by Reading so need to maximise their league points over their final three matchups. An undefeated finish for the Rockets could see them usurp Loughborough and snatch home advantage, so Coach Krumesh Patel just needs to grab one win over this weekend's road double-header to ensure that playoff basketball is heading to Loughborough in April.


 Reading Rockets v Sevenoaks Suns II  

Saturday 23 March 2019 - 5.30pm

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Currently sitting in the seventh spot, Reading have the most games remaining of all teams in WNBL Division One, so have the most potential to move up the standings as the regular season comes to its a climax. An undefeated weekend in their home double-header would see them challenging for the fifth spot, and a 3-0 undefeated finish would see them battling Loughborough for home court advantage. 

Sevenoaks find themselves in need of a victory in their final league game of the season if they are to earn a playoff berth to cap off a solid first campaign in the top flight. A victory would separate the Kent-based side from Birmingham and Barking, giving the Suns a 5-13 record overall to book a spot in the post season. Meanwhile, if Sevenoaks drop this one on the road at Reading, the regular season comes to a close with a three-way tie at the foot of the table for 8th-10th - creating a three team mini-league. Barking Abbey would then sneak into the playoffs by virtue of their points difference in the mini-league, bolstered by a 20 point home win over Birmingham back in November.


 Reading Rockets v Loughborough Riders 

Sunday 24 March 2019 - 2.15pm

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Reading and Loughborough round out the WNBL Division One schedule on Sunday by completing their busy weekend double-headers. Reading will hope to keep their chances of moving up the standings with a win, while Loughborough can lock up the fourth spot with a victory over their closest rivals down the stretch. If Reading come empty this weekend in their home-and-home, Coach David Sanchez' squad finds themselves unable to move above the sixth spot - a crucial couple of games for the Berkshire-based outfit. Looking to wrap up home court advantage in the first round, Coach Krumesh Patel and his side need just one of two wins this weekend to earn the fourth seed and build some momentum heading into the post-season.


NBL Division Two

 Greenwich Titans v London United 

Saturday 23 March 2019 - 3.00pm

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Greenwich head into their final two league games of the season jostling for 8th-11th, with nothing to separate the Titans from Westside, Ipswich and Derbyshire. A victory here, or next week on the road against Myerscough, could see Coach Ashley Thomas' side crucially separate themselves and earn a playoff berth in their first year in NBL Division Two.

United have long held the third spot, but a couple of tough results down the stretch could see Sussex leapfrog them in the standings; while East London, Greenhouse and Myerscough could also be breathing down their neck with strong finishes to the campaign. With the second seed out of reach for Coach Daniel Szatkowski's side, due to their head-to-head against Westminster, grabbing a victory in this final game of the regular season is purely about self-preservation and ensuring they cannot be caught by the chasing pack.


 Westminster Warriors v Myerscough College 

Saturday 23 March 2019 - 5.30pm

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A strong season has seen Westminster lock up the runners-up spot in NBL Division Two with three games to spare, unable to be caught by United or Sussex due to good performances by the Warriors in their head-to-head matchups. However, Coach Jon Johnson and his side will still looking to build momentum as they head into the playoffs, where they will hope to repeat the success in knockout play that earned them the Patrons Cup title. 

Myerscough, in their first season in NBL Division Two, have two games remaining to close out a solid campaign - they begin this final stretch with one of the toughest matchups on the schedule. With Liverpool being the only team to travel to Moberley and take a victory, Myerscough face an uphill battle here, but Coach Neal Hopkins and his young squad will surely be full of confidence. A surprise victory would separate the North West side from the logjam of teams with 9-9 records battling for 5th-7th, with East London and Greenhouse also heading two final crucial fixtures. 


 London Westside v East London All Stars 

Saturday 23 March 2019 - 6.15pm

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Westside close out Saturday's schedule by hosting a cross-capital encounter at Kensington Leisure Centre, with hopes of separating themselves from the raft of teams sitting on five wins as things stand. With a game in hand over their closest competitors, Coach Frank Lamptey's side will need to maximise their final three games if they are to fight for a playoff berth down the stretch. 

East London face a similar final stretch to Myerscough, sitting on a 9-9 record on things stand and closely contesting the 5th-7th race. Back-to-back wins over the final two weeks of the season could see any of these teams fighting for home court advantage, but first they need to separate themselves from the logjam of teams in the middle of the table. 


 London Greenhouse Pioneers v Ipswich 

Sunday 24 March 2019 - 1.30pm

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The Pioneers kick off Sunday's action with a matinee game at CitySports as they host the Patrons Cup runners-up. Greenhouse are locked into the aforementioned race with Myerscough and the All Stars, with their .500 record thus far good putting them right in amongst it for 5th-7th. A tough final game on the road at Liverpool means that this one might be Coach Predrag Krneta's and his squad's final shot at picking up points to close out the regular season. 

Ipswich also require the teams from this one to separate themselves from a close race in 8th-11th, with Greenwich, Westside and Derbyshire all closely contesting the race for the final playoff berth. The Suffolk-based side headed on the road to Liverpool last time out, and a short-handed squad struggled to compete with the league champions. However, Ipswich will hope that this contest was just the beginning of a greater role for Jacob Morgan who top-scored in a breakout performance. 


 Derbyshire Arrows v Sussex Bears 

Sunday 24 March 2019 - 4.15pm

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While they find themselves on the foot of the table heading into this one, the Arrows are tied in the race for 8th-11th with Ipswich, Greenwich and Westside - needing just one result to separate themselves and grab the final playoff spot. It's a tough end to the season for Coach Jonny Kelly's side, facing off against top four opposition Sussex and Westminster in their final two games of the regular season. Derbyshire will need to grab an upset victory against a top team if they wish to extend their season into April when knockout play begins. 

Sussex have two games remaining on the regular season, following this road matchup in Derbyshire with another road trip to East London. Two victories could see the Bears leapfrog United and avoid Liverpool in the second round of the playoffs, while coming up empty opens the door to the chasing pack in a congested race for 5th-8th as Myerscough, Greenhouse and East London all lock their targets onto the south coast squad down the stretch.


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