PREVIEW - Senior Cup semi-finalists ready for action!

NBL Division One

 Thames Valley Cavaliers v Barking Abbey Crusaders 

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 6.00pm

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Thames Valley Cavaliers have enjoyed a bright start to 2019, despite a tough schedule to kick off the New Year. Facing the top two teams in NBL Division One to open up their January, the West London side managed to split the two contests, and followed up their impressive win over Team Solent Kestrels with an equally as impressed victory against Heme Storm last weekend. The Cavs were paced by Abdoulaye Sylla's 24 points and 13 rebounds, as they improved to 9-4 to hold fourth position in the table heading into this weekend.

The visitors in this one, who make the trip across the capital, are a Barking Abbey Crusaders side heading into a double-header weekend after a two weeks without seeing the floor. Last time out, the Crusaders lost out in a narrow 63-65 encounter with Essex Leopards, as a massive comeback down the stretch just wasn't enough in the final moments of the game. Ade Adebayo has continued his impressive season for Coach Lloyd Gardner's squad, but it will be the Barking front-court that will need to be on their A-game to slow down Sylla, along with the Cavs various other inside threats, including Martelle McLemore and Elliott Defreitas. 


 Nottingham McDonalds Hoods v Team Solent Kestrels 

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 6.30pm

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The Nottingham McDonalds Hoods' winning start to 2019 came crashing to end last time out as Essex Leopards pinched a narrow victory at the Wildcats Arena. Two impressive wins against Bradford and Newcastle had seen the East Midlands improve to above .500, but the loss to the Big Cats brought them back to an 7-7 record, sitting in seventh place as things stand. A solid debut season in the top flight has been buoyed by the play of US import Cole Welle, who leads the Hoods in scoring, as Coach Ryan Westley's side have followed the Cavaliers example as both new sides settle in well to life in NBL Division One. A tough challenge awaits this weekend however, as the league-leading Team Solent Kestrels roll into town.

Fresh off a disappointing loss in the National Cup Final, the Kestrels now make the trip to the Wildcats Arena as they reflect on picking up back-to-back losses for the first time this season. A league loss at the hands of Thames Valley Cavaliers two weekend ago saw the Southampton-based side drop to an 11-2 record, before Coach Matt Guymon's side fell at the final hurdle in their plight to pick up the first silverware of the season - downed by an MVP effort from Loughborough's Lucien Cristofis. A battle on the inside with see US import big men Travis Charles and Cole Welle square off in the paint, while it will be the Hoods' Luke Mitchell who will be tasked with slowing down the Solent's dynamic back-court of Herm Senor II and Nick Lewis.


Derby Trailblazers v Team Newcastle 

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 7.15pm

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The Derby Trailblazers head into this one coming off a bounce back victory against the Leicester Warriors, having dropped a game in their previous outing at home against Reading. The victory over Leicester saw the Blazers improve to 8-7, as they now hold onto sixth place in the table, jostling for playoff position in a race that is sure to heat up down the stretch. Derby forward Malcolm Smith has been tough to stop since the New Year, pacing the Blazers in scoring through the first three games of 2019, dropping 20+ points in every contest thus far. 

Meanwhile, the visitors to the East Midlands are a Team Newcastle side that are also coming off a bounce back victory, as they poured on the points in the second half last weekend to down a struggling Manchester Magic squad. The home victory over the travelling North West side came after a tough narrow 55-53 loss on the road at Loughborough the week prior, as Newcastle now find themselves in somewhat of a no-mans land in the Division One standings. Barring a dramatic turnaround for Hemel and Manchester, Coach Ian Hewitt's outfit should now be safe from the drop zone, while they also find themselves needing to pick up their results to compete for a playoff spot. Coach Hewitt will be hoping for continued contributions from up and down their lineup, which has seen Ben Seipt and Nikola Urli step up as scoring threats in recent weeks, alongside the established presences of Eric Stafford and Tosan Evbuomwan; among others on a deep roster. 


Worthing Thunder v Leicester Warriors

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 7.30pm

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The final game of a busy Saturday in NBL Division One sees Leicester Warriors make the trip down to the south coast to The Thunderdome in Worthing. An undefeated start to 2019 has seen the Thunder pile the pressure on league-leading Team Solent Kestrels, as Worthing's 11-3 record sees them just about keeping pace with the Kestrels who are 11-2. Player-coach Josh Goddard's squad will be buoyed by the Kestrels' recent loss at the hands of Thames Valley sets up a potential league-decider on Saturday 16 February - if both teams can stay perfect up to that point. Not getting too far ahead of themselves, the Thunder will need to focus on the task at hand on Saturday evening, as the Warriors with Raphell Thomas-Edwards in tow have been a tough ask for any team. 

A tricky season thus far has seen the Leicester Warriors pick up just enough victories so far to keep themselves away from the dangers of the bottom two. With a 4-3 record so far throughout the months of December and January, Coach Karl Brown's side have found form with some mid-season additions, most notably Raphell Thomas-Edwards, but also Carl Pearson making his return to the club in recent weeks. The Warriors find themselves in a similar position to Team Newcastle, in a Division One standings purgatory - a few wins safe of the relegation spots, but a number of results away from challenging for a position in the post-season. A few key victories over the new few weeks could see Leicester making a name for themselves in the race for eighth.


 Manchester Magic v Barking Abbey Crusaders 

Sunday 27 January 2019 - 5.00pm

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The final game of the NBL Division One weekend sees Manchester Magic play host to Barking Abbey Crusaders in a rescheduled game, following Barking's transport issues on the original date back in November. The Magic head into this Sunday evening affair coming off a disappointing loss on the road at Team Newcastle, as their short-handed squad ran out of gas down the stretch to come up short when Coach Ian Hewitt's side dialled up the pace in the second half. The Magic have found multiple ways to score since the mid-season change on the sideline, with Coach Simon Fisher now having a number of players to turn to as a go-to guy. Richard Bell has found a resurgence of form in his role as a scoring spark off the bench, while the addition of Ryan Lewis has also given Coach Fisher another option on the wing. 

Completing their back-to-back, the Crusaders face a much longer journey to finish off their double-header after having paid a visit to cross-capital foes Thames Valley Cavaliers the night before. As victors in their last outing against the Magic, Coach Lloyd Gardner will be confident his young squad can repeat that as Barking look to get in the mix in the race for the final playoff spots. Jonathan Brown led the Crusaders on that afternoon back in November, ably supported by back-court running mates Ade Adebayo and Spyridon Kapsalos. 


National Trophy

 Bradford Dragons v Worthing Thunder 

Sunday 27 January 2019 - 4.15pm

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Worthing Thunder complete their double-header weekend with a road game in the National Trophy semi-finals, as they look to be the first team to punch their ticket to the finals at UEL Sportsdock. The Thunder travel to face Bradford Dragons, as the West Yorkshire side booked their semi-final spot as winners of Pool A - picking up wins against Manchester and Newcastle in the Northern pool. Meanwhile, Worthing had a slightly trickier path into the knockout stages, having to overcome the league-leading Team Solent Kestrels to book their place. Nick Lewis was instrumental in the Worthing win on that day, but the Thunder now head into the semi-finals without the star point guard after his mid-season departure to join Worthing's south coast rivals in Southampton. 


 Reading Rockets v Loughborough Riders 

Sunday 27 January 2019 - 5.30pm

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In the other semi-final, Reading Rockets booked their place by progressing out of a competitive Pool C - just edging out Hemel Storm on points difference. Loughborough Riders will be looking to punch their ticket to a second final of the early season, after having taken home the first silverware on offer this campaign when they lifted the Men's National Cup last Sunday. Loughborough's route into the Trophy semi-finals wasn't smooth sailing however, as they relied on their points difference to see them into the next round ahead of the Derby Trailblazers. John Madejski Academy will be rocking for this one on Sunday evening, as the Rockets faithful get behind their team in hope of a finals appearance.


WNBL Division One

 Ipswich v Sevenoaks Suns II 

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 3.00pm

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Moving on to the action in WNBL Division One, which makes a return after the focus shifted to the National Cup Final last weekend, Ipswich start the day by hosting Sevenoaks Suns II. An even 5-5 record shows that this season hasn't been smooth sailing for the Division One newcomers, but Coach Nick Drane's side have made a real statement of intent to start 2019 with two bigs wins over Team Solent Kestrels and Bristol Academy Flyers; two of the top three sides as things stand in WNBL Division One. Having had Harriet Welham explode for 35 points in the win against Bristol, Coach Drane will be hoping for more of the same from his star guard, but there will need to be contributions from up and down the Ipswich roster if they are to keep up this run of form.

Meanwhile, making the trip to Suffolk is a Sevenoaks Suns II side that finds themselves in ninth place after a rocky season thus far for their young roster. With many of their up-and-coming stars picking up the Under 16 Girls National Cup title last weekend in Essex, the Suns will be full of confidence to go and get a result on the road in this one. The previous contest between these two sides saw Sevenoaks come out on top on their home floor, picking up a 71-57 win behind a 32 point performance from lead guard Katie Bennett. Coach Len Busch will be hoping for more of the same this time out, but the Ipswich fans are sure to make Copleston Sports Centre a tough place to visit on Saturday.


 Anglia Ruskin University v Barking Abbey 

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 4.00pm

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It has been an impressive season so far for Anglia Ruskin University, as they sit second in the WNBL Division One standings, with a 7-2 record on the year. Coach Michael Hanson-Morris has recently stepped into the hot seat following a switch from Nottingham Wildcats, and the Rhinos did not miss a beat - picking up two wins from two in their first two contests of 2019. The race is on at the top of the table, with both the Rhinos and the Flyers tied on two losses thus far, and Bristol holding the head-to-head. If neither team falters over the next month of games, a potential league-decider could be on the cards in late February.

However, to set up their challenge for the league title, Anglia Ruskin will first need to go through their opposition on Saturday, as Barking Abbey make the trip to Cambridge. A young Barking squad find themselves currently in seventh position with a 4-8 record, having grabbed some key results which gives them a solid chance of holding on to one of the final playoff spots. Last time these two teams met, the stifling defensive effort of the Rhinos made it tough for Barking to get it done offensively, as they were held to just 32 points in the blow-out loss. Coach Tope Ali-Balogun will be hoping for better on the offensive end of the floor if his side are to give themselves a chance to snatch an upset in this one. 


Loughborough Riders v Team Solent Kestrels

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 4.30pm

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Fresh off securing the Women's National Cup title, the Loughborough Riders are straight back into action with a tough test to resume their league schedule. A battle of fourth vs third sees Team Solent Kestrels make the trip up to the East Midlands, in a contest that could have important consequences for playoff seedings down the stretch in the top four. As the first team in WNBL Division One to pick up silverware this season, Coach Krumesh Patel and his side will be buoyed by their recent success, but will need a refocused effort to pick up the victory in this one.

The visiting Team Solent Kestrels picked up the win the last time these two sides faced off back in October, when Andrea Kurkowski paced them with 20 points en route to a 60-46 victory. Having bounced back from their loss against Ipswich to defeat Team Birmingham Elite in their last action, Coach CJ Lee's side maintained their position in the top three as they improved to 7-3 on the season. Having led the Southampton-based side in scoring in both their games since the turn of the year, Geena Gomez will be the key player for Loughborough to slow down - a proven offensive threat thus far this campaign.


 Reading Rockets v Southwark Pride

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 5.30pm

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It was a mixed weekend in Essex for the Reading Rockets, as their Under 18 Women picked up the National Cup title on Saturday, before their senior women couldn't repeat the feat on Sunday - as many of their junior squad completed a double-header weekend. The return to league action sees the Rockets back at John Madejski Academy, as they looked to improve upon their 3-5 record thus far this season. A valuable addition to the side this campaign has been Monica Herranz de Antonio, whose scoring prowess has been key for Coach David Sanchez' side as they fight for a post-season position. 

The Rockets play host to Southwark Pride in this one, as Coach Jackson Gibbons' side look to pick up their first win of 2019. Their losses since the New Year have come on the road against Loughborough and Anglia Ruskin, so the Pride will be hopefully that they can end their run of away games on a high. With multiple offensive threats at his disposal, Coach Gibbons will place his trust in the play of the likes of Megan Haines and Amelia Sandie - as they do battle with the flair of Reading's back-court. 


 Team Birmingham Elite v Bristol Academy Flyers

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 6.00pm

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Having picked up their first win of the season with a narrow victory over Southwark Pride in the final matchup before Christmas, Team Birmingham Elite will hope to double their win total on Saturday evening. A season of near misses has seen Coach Robin Hall's side come up just short on multiple occasions, with a number of single digit losses to their name thus far. Last time out, Elite competed hard with Team Solent for three quarters, only for the Kestrels to pull away in the final stanza to take the victory. Lucy Buxton paced her side with 16 points on that day, so Coach Hall will be hoping she can carry that form into this contest with the Flyers.

The travelling Bristol team got their 2019 off to a bang when they put 98 points on the board in a win against Sevenoaks Suns II, before stumbling last time out against Ipswich. Despite 22 points from Cristina Bigica, the South West side fell to a lop-sided loss that Coach Gareth Till will be hoping they can bounce back from against the league's basement squad. Just three points in the final period was the Flyers undoing, as they sought to chase the game against Ipswich, so Coach Till will look for 40 minutes of consistent offensive production if the Flyers are to take the spoils on the road on Saturday.


NBL Division Two

 Myerscough College v London Greenhouse Pioneers 

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 2.00pm

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Heading into their first action of the New Year, Myerscough College have a solid 4-6 record to build upon as the season progresses. After a good start to life in Division Two, the North West side faltered a little at times, so Coach Neal Hopkins will be hoping his squad can find some consistency as they jostle for a playoff position throughout the stretch run of the season.

Meanwhile, London Greenhouse Pioneers head into a game coming off a loss for the first time since October, after their momentous unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of Liverpool last time out. The league-leaders showed no mercy as they pinched the result on the road at CitySport, seeing the Pioneer run came to an end at seven games unbeaten. Coach Predrag Krneta will be hoping his players can regroup, as they face a Myerscough side that pinched a 62-63 road win over them on the opening day of the season. 


 Liverpool v Sussex Bears 

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 5.00pm

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Liverpool extended their undefeated run to 10-0 last time out as they faced their toughest challengers yet in the London Greenhouse Pioneers. 25 points from Mark Rangeley was enough to spur the Merseysiders to a victory on the road. Now looking to keep up this historic run, Coach Delme Herriman's side are back at home at Archbishop Beck Sports College as they host the Sussex Bears. 

After a mixed first half of the season, the Bears have picked up two key wins to kick off 2019 as they improved to 6-4. The comforts of home at Sir Robert Woodard Academy saw Sussex first defeat East London All Stars behind 31 points from Cordaris Townes, before Townes again led them with 25 points in a win over Ipswich. Back on the road and heading north, the Bears will need to bring their best if they are to topple the top of the table Liverpool squad.


 Ipswich v East London All Stars 

Saturday 26 January 2019 - 5.30pm

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Currently holding on to the eighth and final playoff spot, Ipswich have split their games since the turn of the year, and will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss at the hands of Sussex last time out. An even scoring spread saw the Suffolk-based side share the wealth against the Bears, as their breadth of offensive weapons made their mark. However, the offense dried up down the stretch, allowing the south coast side to pull away and take the victory.

Making the trip to Suffolk from the capital are an East London All Stars side that are looking to climb into the top four. Having dropped their first game of 2019 to Sussex, the All Stars bounced back last time out to take the spoils against Derbyshire Arrows; a narrow win that went right down to the wire. Kyle Gouveia impressed with 33 points in that one, so Coach Dave Greenaway will be hoping for more of the same from their star guard. With a 5-6 record heading into this weekend, East London will be hoping to make the jump to above .500 as the back end of the season progresses. 


 London UnitedLondon Westside 

Sunday 27 January 2019 - 4.00pm

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An all-capital derby awaits to tip-off Sunday's action, as London United play host to London Westside at Alec Reed Academy. United are 4-5 heading into this weekend, fresh off a single point loss against Greenwich Titans. Despite the loss, Tomas Butrimas kept up his effective scoring performances as of late, with a team high 21 points pacing United. 

Meanwhile, London Westside's turbulent year has seen them go winless since early November, as a five-game losing streak has quickly piled up, seeing them fall to 2-8 on the season. However, Coach Frank Lamptey's side were not far off in their last outing against Ipswich, as a single digit loss was only decided when the Suffolk-based side pulled away down the stretch. 


Derbyshire ArrowsGreenwich Titans 

Sunday 27 January 2019 - 4.15pm

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The final game that wraps up NBL Division Two for this weekend sees Greenwich Titans make the trip up to Derbyshire Arrows. On a three-game losing streak that spans either side of the New Year, the Arrows have had a tough run despite staying competitive in games. Single digit losses against Sussex and East London sandwich a disappointing blowout against Westminster, so Coach Jonny Kelly will hope his side can channel that competitiveness to get them a result in this one.

The visitors heading to the Dronfield Sports Centre on Sunday are a Greenwich Titans side that can buoyed about picking up their second win of the season last time out; a single point separating them and London United. Jake Murphy led the way with 27 points on that occasion, ably supported by 22 point from Arturo Noha-Pascual. With just two wins separating the bottom spot and the final playoff seed, a win here would see the Titans off the bottom of the standings and right back into the hunt to be involved in post-season play. 


Patrons Cup

 London Greenhouse Pioneers v Ipswich 

Sunday 27 January 2019 - 1.30pm

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It's a busy weekend for both London Greenhouse Pioneers and Ipswich as they complete double-header weekends by taking on the challenge of a Patrons Cup semi-final. Winners of Pool C, the Pioneers took down Sussex Bears and Greenwich Titans en route to booking their place in the knockout stages, and have since found fine form in their league campaign as well. Meanwhile, making the visit to CitySport is an Ipswich side which won Pool B by defeating East London All Stars and Derbyshire Arrows, providing a simple route into the semi-finals. 


 LiverpoolWestminster Warriors 

Sunday 27 January 2019 - 3.00pm

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The other semi-final in the Patrons Cup sees a titanic battle of the top two in the NBL Division Two league standings face off for a chance at the title in February. Beaten finalists in last season's competition, Westminster Warriors progressed from Pool D by picking up wins over cross-capital rivals London United and London Westside. Meanwhile, it a win or go home affair in Pool A - following Lancashire Spinners withdrawal, the two remaining North West side's faced off; Liverpool grabbing the win over Myerscough College to progress. The Merseyside squad will be hoping they can add a Patrons Cup final appearance to their outstanding league record thus far this season. 


National Shield

Image result for essex blades logo Essex Blades v University of Chester

Sunday 27 January 2019 - 2.00pm

This weekend also sees the best of NBL Division Three & Four face off as the National Shield reaches it's semi-final stage. A mixed league season thus far sees Essex Blades sit in fourth in Division Three South, but they have found their form in the knockout competition to progress to the final four. Victories over Hemel Storm II, Oxford Brookes University and Charnwood College Riders have seen the Blades into the final, while Division Three North league-leaders University of Chester have defeated Anglia Ruskin University, Westminster Dragons and Swindon Shock to reach this stage. 


 London BC Medelynas v Team Derby Spartans

Sunday 27 January 2019 - 5.30pm

With Myerscough College earning promotion to NBL Division Two, there will be a new name on the National Shield this season - and the second semi-final sees a rematch of the NBL Division Four playoff final from a season ago. Both newly promoted teams into NBL Division Three, London BC Medelynas and Team Derby Spartans have enjoyed successful starts to the season in the South and North divisions, respectively. Medelynas' route to the final has seen them pick up routine wins over London Thunder Lewisham, Team Solent Kestrels II and Stoke-on-Trent Knights in the early stages of the competition, before a narrow quarter-final victory on the road at WLV Albion. Meanwhile, Team Derby Spartans have progressed to the semi's with wins over Liverpool Stars, City of Birmingham Rockets and, the high-flying NBL Division Four South West side, Bristol Hurricanes.



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