PREVIEW - Top of the table clash in NBL Division Two as Westminster host Liverpool!

NBL Division One

 Team Newcastle v Worthing Thunder 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 2.30pm

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Coming off a weekend where Team Newcastle were the unfortunate squad that allowed Bradford Dragons to snap their losing, the North East side face a tough ask against Worthing as relegation looms large. A strong fight-back after a rough start had Newcastle in the mix against the Dragons, but a solid end to the game for their visitors saw the Tynesiders fall to 5-15 on the season; just six games remaining to stake their claim at NBL Division One status for next year. There has been a return to form for young star Tosan Evbuomwan in recent weeks, and Coach Ian Hewitt will need every bit of production from the young talents on his roster if they are to challenge the Thunder in this one.

Heading north for one of the longest road trips in the top flight, Worthing Thunder are the team making the trek up to the Benfield Centre for this Saturday afternoon encounter with Team Newcastle. Heading into this one on a four game winning streak, after their untimely slip up in overtime Hemel, Worthing need to continue their good form if they are to challenge at the top for an elusive regular season league title. The maths is simple for player-coach Josh Goddard's side, they need one more win than south coast rivals Team Solent Kestrels. A tied record will not be enough, since the Kestrels hold the head-to-head tie-breaker, so the Thunder need to stay perfect for the remainder of the season; hoping that Solent slip up somewhere down the line.


 Bradford Dragons v Thames Valley Cavaliers 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 6.15pm

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A slight change of scenery will have this one feeling like a road game for both teams, as Bradford host this matchup at at Unique Fitness, rather than their usual Dragons' Den at Bradford College. The University of Bradford venue will see the Dragons looking to build on their victory against Newcastle last weekend, the West Yorkshire squad's first success of 2019 after a rough patch to start the calendar year. Starring in that road win in the North East was none other than Rihards Sulcs, as the Dragons' talented wing continues to put up eye-catching numbers despite Bradford's struggles in the standings. Last weekend's victory for Coach Chris Mellor's side did them a world of good in terms of keeping out of the relegation battle - but with very little breathing room, they still may need a couple of results down the stretch.

Meanwhile, making the trip to Bradford for this one is a Thames Valley Cavaliers side that enjoyed a weekend off last week, following the postponement of their home tie against Manchester Magic. Prior to that rearrangement that tipped off March for the Cavs, they had endured a tricky February where they went 3-2, losing out in close matchups against Loughborough and Leicester. Having righted the ship with a narrow win over Newcastle to bring February to a close, Coach Robert Banks' squad will hope to continue the winning ways as they target a return to the top four. 


 Nottingham McDonalds Hoods v Hemel Storm 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 6.30pm

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Just four games remain for Nottingham McDonalds Hoods to close out an impressive debut campaign in NBL Division One, as the East Midlands' side continue to target a spot in the post-season. Three of these four final fixtures come against teams around the Hoods in the bottom half of the table, including this one which sees Nottingham face off with Hemel who sit directly below them in the standings. If previous form is anything to go by, the fans at the Wildcats Arena are in with a treat on Saturday evening, as the last encounter came down to the final possession when Nottingham pinched an 80-82 road win behind 21 points from Cole Welle. 

Making the journey to the East Midlands is a Hemel Storm squad that has picked up six victories in ten tries since the turn of the year, adding to a measly two win tally when the festive break rolled around. The resurgence from the Hertfordshire-based side has seen them go from right in amongst it in the relegation battle, to now having breathing room from the bottom - even in a position to challenge for the playoffs down the stretch. A big factor in the change in the Storm's fortunes has been the mid-season addition of import forward TrayVonn Wright, following his release from the Leicester Riders BBL programme. Wright has been a catalyst for the Hemel success, averaging 29.2 points and 10.8 rebounds in the six games since his arrival. With potentially even more to come as Coach Robert Youngblood continues to work Wright into his system, Hemel could be a dark horse to snatch the eighth seed when March comes to a close.


 Manchester Magic v Derby Trailblazers 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 6.30pm

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It has been a difficult campaign for the perennial North West powerhouse in Manchester, as the young Magic roster has struggled to pick up the results needed to fight for NBL Division One status next season. While it is still mathematically possible for the Magic to finish 12th and remain in the top slight, it would take some serious upsets down the stretch. Opening up their weekend double-header by hosting the fourth-placed Derby Trailblazers, the Magic will be hopeful that they can rediscover the fight that had them leading after three quarters on the road at the Clarence Wiggins Centre back in early December - Coach Aurimas Verbukas' final game before his mid-season departure. There is no doubt Coach Simon Fisher and his squad will continue to work hard as the season comes to a close, but with MVP candidate Malcolm Smith rolling into town, a victory in this one will be a tough ask.

The Blazers make the trip over to the Manchester Basketball Centre for this Saturday evening encounter coming off a tough home loss against Loughborough last time out. The East Midlands derby matchup went the way of the Riders as the young Loughborough side pulled off an impressive final run to secure the result in the fourth quarter. Coach Matt Shaw and his squad will be focused on getting back to winning ways, and rediscovering the form that led them to seven straight victories throughout January and February. Home advantage in the first round of the playoffs has to be the aim for the Blazers' side who currently sit in fourth place, but the pressure is building as both Reading and Thames Valley will challenge throughout the stretch run. 


 Team Solent Kestrels v Leicester Warriors 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 8.00pm

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The penultimate game of a busy Saturday of NBL Division One action sees Team Solent Kestrels play host to the Leicester Warriors in a late one at Places Leisure Eastleigh. Heading into last weekend in unfamiliar territory, second place in the standings, the Kestrels picked up a double-header of victories to regain the top spot - as just five games remain for the south coast side to clinch the league championship. After an exciting single point victory on the road against Reading, the Kestrels' fans were treated to a dominant performance against Loughborough on their home floor as Team Solent picked up a Sunday evening win to improve to 17-4 on the year. Coach Matt Guymon will be hoping the impressive play of US import Travis Charles continues, as the big man poured in 56 points over the two matchups last weekend to pace the Kestrels' scoring. 

Meanwhile, the Kestrels should not rest on their laurels in this one, as the visiting Leicester Warriors side has made a unlikely run from the relegation battle to playoff contention over the last couple of months. The catalysts in the mid-season turnaround for Coach Karl Brown's side have been the additions of Raphell Thomas-Edwards and Taylor Johnson, while the more low key return to the Warriors by Carl Pearson has also been an important contribution to their improved play since the festive break. However, a five game win streak came to an end last weekend, when Leicester were downed 91-93 on their home floor by the Leopards. Coach Brown and his side have a tough task if they are going to bounce back from that loss in this one, but the Warriors are sure to keep things interesting in their trip to the south coast.


 Barking Abbey Crusaders v Reading Rockets 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 8.30pm

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In a rare late home game for the Barking Abbey Crusaders, the East London squad will make their way to Kent for this one as they play host to the Reading Rockets at Brompton Academy. Paying homage to their Medway Park Crusaders' roots, the Saturday night lights will be when Barking look to bounce back from a recent rough patch that saw them go winless throughout February - before their tough stretch extended to six games without a victory last weekend. In the midst of a fight to remain in NBL Division One, the Crusaders have just five games remaining to get the points they need to stay out of the danger zone. 

A mixed few weeks for the Reading Rockets has seen Coach Alan Keane's squad slide down the standings to seventh place, but with only eight losses to their name thus far, their six remaining games could still see them challenge for a spot in the top four. The Berkshire-based side split their home double-header last weekend, losing out in a close one against Team Solent, before grabbing a bounce back win against Nottingham. A scoring explosion of 56 points across the back-to-back from Trae Pemberton helped the Rockets compete in both games, so Coach Keane will hope the exceptional play of his star guard continues throughout another double-header weekend. 


 Team Solent Kestrels v Barking Abbey Crusaders 

Sunday 10 March 2019 - 12.00pm

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Team Solent Kestrels will be straight back into action at Places Leisure Eastleigh to complete their double-header, as they host a Sunday matinee game against Barking - a team also completing a back-to-back weekend. With a short bench as of late, and very little recovery time after their battle with Leicester, the Kestrels may feel the effects of fatigue in this one, but will need to power through if they are to build on their position atop the league standings. Meanwhile, Barking Abbey face a second game of the weekend against a playoff-bound team - a tough double-header in which Coach Lloyd Gardner's side may find it tough to pick up any points. However, the schedule does ease up a little for the Crusaders down the stretch, with their final three league games coming against fellow bottom half teams - much kinder matchups as the need for crucial wins grows and grows. 


 Team Newcastle v Essex Leopards 

Sunday 10 March 2019 - 3.00pm

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Team Newcastle complete their home-and-home double-header weekend on Sunday afternoon when they host the recently in-form Essex Leopards squad. While Newcastle have found themselves in the relegation dog-fight throughout the season, a solid run of victories from the Big Cats has seen them vault themselves into a playoff position - until a recent down-turn in their results. The Leopards were winners of eight out of nine games in a run of fixtures that spanned January and February, until a recent run where they have lost two of their last three outings. In a tightly-bunched race to jostle for playoff seedings, Essex will need all the points they can get to earn a favourable post-season matchup, with their next two fixtures against Newcastle and Bradford being the most likely sources of the much-needed results.


 Manchester Magic v Bradford Dragons 

Sunday 10 March 2019 - 5.00pm

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Manchester complete a home double-header of their own with a Sunday evening fixture against Bradford Dragons, as the West Yorkshire round out their own back-to-back. Coach Simon Fisher and his side will be hoping that the comforts of home can lead to a much-needed Magic victory, against a Bradford side that they have competed well against thus far this campaign. A win here for Bradford would do them good in their race towards survival, creating more breathing room above Newcastle - but the hosts won't go down without a fight. With a good battle on the cards inside the paint between Jonathan Barnes and Ricky Fetske, there will also be intrigue on the wing as Coach Fisher can throw Ryan Lewis, Andre Gayle and Loick Pouale at Rihards Sulcs to try and slow down his recent scoring spree. 


 Reading Rockets v Thames Valley Cavaliers

Sunday 10 March 2019 - 6.00pm

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In another game that sees a change of scenery for the hosts, this Sunday evening affair will be played out in front of a tightly-packed Rockets crowd at John Madejski Academy, rather than at the 'Mead. The final game of the NBL Division One weekend is sure to be a good one, as Reading complete their back-to-back after a return home from Kent, whilst Thames Valley make the short trip from West London out to Berkshire after their road trip up to Bradford on Saturday evening. Back in the early season, Reading defeated Thames Valley 68-83 in the National Trophy, before the Rockets grabbed their first league win of the season when they downed the Cavs 64-83. With Coach Alan Keane's squad holding a solid lead in the head-to-head, Thames Valley will no doubt want to reverse their fortunes from this early season encounter, in a matchup that could go a long way in deciding end of season playoff seedings in and around the top four. 


WNBL Division One

 Barking Abbey v Team Solent Kestrels 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 1.15pm

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The WNBL Division One action for this weekend tips off in East London as Barking Abbey welcome Team Solent Kestrels in unfamiliar territory. Hornchurch Sports Centre plays host to this matchup, which sees the home side close out their campaign as they play their final game of the regular season. A victory in this final contest would see Barking put themselves in with a chance at a playoff berth, while a loss would cement them to the bottom of the standings. Closing out their season with a tough matchup against the third-placed Team Solent Kestrels, Coach Tope Alli-Balogun will have to hope for a breakout performance from the young East London squad, else the bottom position beckons as they enter the off-season earlier than most.

Meanwhile, the visiting Team Solent Kestrels squad has just three games remaining to stake their claim at the league title, and with a mouth-watering matchup against Bristol still to come, they may yet have something to say about the destination of the regular season silverware. However, the Kestrels first have to deal with an exciting young Barking Abbey squad on Saturday afternoon, as they make the journey into East London from the south coast. Their most recent trip into the capital was a successful one as they came away with a 10 point win on the road at Southwark Pride, so Coach CJ Lee will be hoping they can repeat that road triumph. 


 Southwark Pride v Sevenoaks Suns II 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 2.00pm

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Having played out a relatively mediocre campaign compared to their second-placed finish from a season ago, this young Southwark Pride squad now have just two games remaining to try and pull themselves up to .500 record for the campaign. Currently sitting in sixth with a 7-9 record, the Central London squad have lost their last two and need a change in their fortunes if they are to build some momentum before hitting the post-season. 

It has been a tough first year in the top flight for a young up-and-coming roster at Sevenoaks, with plenty of junior stars earning their first shot at playing senior women's basketball. Their 4-12 record as things stand has them currently in ninth place, but as the Kent-based side hold a head-to-head advantage against both Birmingham and Barking, they may eventually sneak into the eighth spot when the final league standings shake up. With this contest against Southwark and a rescheduled fixture against Reading still to come, the Suns can control their own destiny with two victories potentially earning them the seventh spot outright. 


 Reading Rockets v Team Birmingham Elite 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 4.00pm

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Saturday's action in WNBL Division One continues in Berkshire as the Reading Rockets play host to Team Birmingham in another crucial matchup with playoff implications. A busy stretch run remains for the Rockets, as they continue into March with five games still to be played, meaning the National Cup runners-up have a number of chances to pick up results that could see them climb the standings before the season's end. The games that remain against Loughborough and Solent will be tough asks to pick up points, so this home tie presents the best opportunity of the upcoming contests for Coach David Sanchez and his side to grab crucial points to begin their challenge for the top six. 

Making the trip down to the John Madejski Academy is a Team Birmingham squad that has enjoyed three wins in their last five outings, with the two losses coming down to single digit deficits. The recent run of results has seen the Elite side pull themselves into playoff contention, but with the head-to-head differentials not on their side, they may need another victory to secure their post-season berth. Just three games remain for Coach Robin Hall's side, with the final two coming against Anglia Ruskin University, meaning this road game against Reading presents their best shot at grabbing the win they need for a playoff spot to become a reality. 


 Anglia Ruskin University v Ipswich 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 4.00pm

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Rounding out Saturday's play in WNBL Division One is an all-East region affair in Cambridge as Anglia Ruskin University play host to Ipswich. As winners of six of their last seven outings, the Rhinos have made their charge into the second position in the standings, tied on losses with Bristol, and holding a crucial two point head-to-head advantage against the Flyers. Just needing to remain perfect over their final four league games to clinch the league title, this weekend's double-header presents a big chance for the Cambridge-based side to take big steps towards claiming the regular season silverware.

Meanwhile, just two games remain for an Ipswich side that has dropped three of their last four - but they sandwiched in a dominant win over Loughborough that showed their true potential. It has been an up-and-down season for last campaign's all-conquering squad, as the mix of youth and experience has seen Coach Nick Drane's outfit make big improvements throughout a tough journey. With very little separating the teams in contention for 4th-7th, Ipswich will need two wins from two over their final couple of games if they are to remain in the fifth spot that they currently hold.


 Loughborough Riders v Anglia Ruskin University 

Sunday 10 March 2019 - 3.30pm

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Loughborough will be the hosts on Sunday afternoon when Anglia Ruskin University complete their busy double-header, as the Riders begin a tough stretch to end their season. With games still to come against both the Rhinos and the Flyers, Loughborough's performances may be a big determining factor in the destination of the regular season silverware - while they are also yet to play their two league games against the Reading Rockets, their National Cup final foes. With the games against Anglia Ruskin and Bristol likely to play a part in the final standings at the top, Loughborough may yet still have an effect on whether Reading make the post-season; not forgetting the final league positioning of Loughborough themselves who are positioned to challenge to shape up the top four as the season comes to its climax.


NBL Division Two

 Myerscough College v London United 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 2.00pm

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Having picked up a tough loss last weekend at the hands of the all-conquering Liverpool, Myerscough College face another tough matchup with London United on Saturday afternoon. As the third-placed United side make the trip to the North West, Myerscough will be looking at their final four league games in the hope that they can pick up the results needed to clinch a post-season spot - a deserved reward for a solid first campaign at the NBL Division Two level. 

London United head into this one with a 10-7 record and a two-game win streak that the West Londoners will hope to continue, as Sussex Bears continued to pile on the pressure in the top four. With a number of slip-ups from the Warriors between United and a shot at Division One basketball next season, Coach Daniel Szatkowski's squad look destined to finish in third, on the outside looking in as Liverpool and Westminster become prime candidates for promotion. 


 Greenwich Titans v Ipswich 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 3.00pm

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A tricky first campaign in NBL Division Three sees Greenwich in 10th place with a 4-11 record, and the East London squad picked up a tough 111-60 derby loss against the All Stars last weekend. A busy stretch run means the Titans still have five games remaining, so still have the possibility of picking up points needed to stave off a relegation battle and challenge for the eighth seed.

Ipswich are just above the Titans with a 5-11 record that is good for the eighth spot as things stand, and the Suffolk-based side hold a crucial head-to-head over Derbyshire Arrows that may work in their favour down the stretch. Last weekend, Ipswich reversed their Patrons Cup final loss to defeat Westminster, just the Warriors fourth loss in league play this season. Buoyed by this result, Ipswich will head into their final four league games with a point to prove, to get into the post-season and turn some heads on their way. 


 Westminster Warriors v Liverpool 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 5.30pm

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Needing to bounce back from a league loss for just the fourth time this season, the Warriors couldn't be heading into a tougher matchup than this one. Westminster play host to the undefeated Liverpool squad on Saturday evening, and will hope to repeat their good performance on the road at Archbishop Beck, when they were down by just six points in a 99-93 loss against the Merseysiders. 

The 16-0 campaign thus far for Liverpool has been one of the most impressive stories of the NBL season, but the unblemished loss column hasn't come without recent challenges. Single digit victories over Westside, Sussex and United have been the closest Coach Delme Herriman's side have come to picking up their first league loss - with Westminster all on the list on single digit triumphs. A relatively easy stretch run schedule for the North West side has the potential of a perfect season very much on the cards, but first they will need to get through a Westminster squad that has not lost on their home floor yet this campaign.


 London Westside v Derbyshire Arrows 

Saturday 9 March 2019 - 6.15pm

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NBL Division Two action on Saturday concludes with London Westside playing host to Derbyshire Arrows, as Coach Frank Lamptey's side enter the stretch run of the season needing crucial results to stave off becoming prime candidates for relegation. The Westside squad has undergone a number of changes as of late, but with the impressive play of mid-season additions Donald Morris, Santiago Leon and Mansour Mbye spurring them to a recent derby victory over Greenhouse - there could still be life in this season for a Westside outfit that is on the up and up. 

Meanwhile, the Arrows make the trip to the capital off the back off a four game losing streak, and with three final tough fixtures against playoff-bound sides still to come, they will really need to pick up the points in this one if they are to have a chance at the eighth spot come the end of the season. An impressive game for Callum McKenzie last weekend saw him perform well in a lop-sided loss against London United, but Coach Jonny Kelly will need more contributions from up and down his roster if they are to improve their performance and grab a victory in this one.


 London Greenhouse Pioneers v Sussex Bears 

Sunday 10 March 2019 - 1.30pm

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The final game of the NBL Division Two weekend sees London Greenhouse Pioneers play host to a Sunday matinee game against Sussex Bears. In what once could have been a late-season battle between two top four teams, Greenhouse have seen their season unravel with a tough second half that has had them sliding down the standings since the festive break. The Pioneers had looked to have righted the ship with a recent road win over Derbyshire, but they were quickly brought back down to Earth with a narrow loss against Westside last weekend.

Finally, Sussex head into this one off the back of a good run of form - winners of their last two outings, and recent losses that intersperse victories coming against top sides by just single digits. The star of the show for Coach Gary Smith this season has been Cordaris Townes, but he took a supporting role in last weekend's dominant victory against Greenwich as Tomas Seduikis poured in 32 points to lead all scorers. In fourth place as things stand, the Bears will need to continue their contributions from up and down their roster if they are to secure home advantage in the playoff and build momentum for a likely second round matchup against Liverpool.


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