Lynch Trophy Final: Derby Trailblazers claim first honours of 2022 with win over Newcastle

The Derby Trailblazers are 2022 L Lynch Trophy winners, after they beat Team Newcastle University 86-71.

Malcolm Smith led the game, earning Final MVP with 30 points and 18 rebounds.

Smith was dominant inside, getting to the free-throw line with ease to go 12-15 on his foul shots. Supporting him, Raheem May-Thompson used his BBL Championship experience to help his team over the line, scoring 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

The Trailblazers survived a fightback from the NBL’s comeback kings, who pegged Derby’s 16-point lead to six late in the fourth. Newcastle’s sharpshooter Brandon Federici led the charge with 24 points, but his team fell victim to a late Derby run to seal the game.

The Trailblazers dominated in the tournament, winning every game by 15 points or more. They entered the final with the best three-point percentage in the Lynch Trophy, but showed their versatility after struggling from three in the game, going 5-28.

Defence won the game for the Trailblazers, as they held Newcastle to their lowest points tally of their Trophy campaign. Derby blocked five shots and stole the ball eight times, allowing them to showcase their athleticism on the fast break.

The game featured two of the tournament’s top three teams in pace, who started at an exhilarating speed. The sides went back and forth from the tip, with Derby ending the first quarter with an 8-0 run, kick-started by Blake Bowman.

Bowman made the first highlight play of the game for the Trailblazers. He drove coast to coast, attacking Newcastle’s defence before slamming it in left-handed. The Derby native had seven in the first quarter, last season’s NBL Young Player of the Year getting off to a hot start.

Derby’s interior defence stifled Newcastle’s attempts to get to the basket to start the second, blocking shots on three straight possessions. However, Newcastle began their fight back into the game after falling down 29-16.

Their leading scorer, Ronald Blain, led the way to cut the score to four. He began to attack, getting eight points, five rebounds and two assists in the second.

To close out the half, May-Thompson scored two straight from the midrange to extend the Trailblazer lead. The sides entered the locker rooms with the score 46-37.

In response to Newcastle bolting out for four straight points in the second half, Derby reasserted themselves with a 14-4 run. The Trailblazers’ number one ranked Lynch Trophy defence held their opponents to just 12 points in the first eight minutes of the third.

Back-to-back Federici threes in the final minute of the quarter cut the game to nine entering the fourth. The Franklin and Marshall graduate scored 10 in the third to bring the game within reach for Newcastle.

With the game hanging in the balance, Newcastle charged back into a game. David Moya made momentum-shifting plays, hitting a three to cut the Trailblazers’ lead to six, before his chase-down block on forced a Derby timeout, setting up a thrilling finale.

With 3:30 on the clock, Newcastle’s star man Blain picked up his fifth foul, forcing him to sit out the rest of the game. With Blain on the bench, Derby sealed the win with five quick points, a May-Thompson corner three the dagger.

Words: Charlie Walker
Pics: Adam Bates and Peter Simmons

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