NBL D2&3 recap: Sprint for post-season places begins

With December's mid-season break now a distant memory, teams are pushing hard to move up the standings across the NBL.

With regular season titles to claim, playoff spots to secure and relegation places to avoid, it's all to play for as the 2023/24 hits the home straight

Here’s the latest story from across tiers two and three as the post season looms on the horizon.

NBL Division Two  

The North division is shaping into a two-horse race between Bristol Hurricanes (13-1) and St Helens Saints (11-2).

Bristol beat their title rivals 90-63 on the road in their first game of 2024, giving them a further advantage in race for top spot. The second leg in the South West is still to rearranged, but will be a huge contest regardless.

Former D1M winners Manchester Magic have slipped from a 7-2 record to 10-5, and it's hard to imagine either the Hurricanes or Saints dropping that number of games between now and the end of the regular season to allow Magic another look.

Fourth down to eleventh is separated by just eight points as things stand, making the dash to secure a playoff spot highly-competitive.

Only twelfth place Doncaster Eagles (2-13) look cast adrift at the moment, though 41 points and 12 boards from veteran signing David "Tin Tin" Watts last weekend suggests the Eagles could be a tough team to beat in the next few months.

In the South, both Team Solent Kestrels (14-0) and Milton Keynes Breakers (12-1) are taking the title race right down to the wire.

The Breakers have a game to make up after their historic NBL National Cup victory a few weeks ago, and one of the league games that needed to be rearranged this past month was MK's trip to the South coast.

Four teams, Cardiff Met Archers (9-5), Richmond Knights (9-5), NASSA (9-6) and Cobham Scorchers (9-6) are all battling for third through sixth on 18 points, with seventh through tenth also separated by just four points in the race for the last few playoff spots.

MK still need to play Cardiff and NASSA before the end of February, TSK need to navigate Cardiff, Cobham plus a visit from eighth place Endeavour Ipswich Basketball.

WNBL Division Two 

As has been the case all season long, Pool 1 continues to belong to reigning champs Sheffield Hatters II (10-0).

The WNBL National Cup semi-finalists have shown no sign of letting up as they stream roller the division, with their next closest rivals Bromsgrove Bears (8-3) still four points behind despite playing a game more.

Worcester Wolves (7-3) and University of East Anglia (7-3) are both in the thick of the chasing pack alongside the Bears, with Sheffield's trip to Bromsgrove being the pick of the fixtures for the coming month.

Pool 2 leaders Cobham Cobras (12-1) have finally tasted defeat, picking up their maiden L against second place side London All Stars (12-2).

That pair have a six point cushion to Hemel Storm (9-3) in third, with Oaklands College Wolves II (8-6), East London Phoenix (7-6), Thames Valley Cavaliers II (6-5), Cardiff City (6-6) and Plymouth City Patriots (5-7) all within touching distance for the remainder of the playoff places.

With the top two not set to meet again until the penultimate weekend of the season in mid-March, both sides will be trying to navigate their schedules without dropping points to set up what would be an exciting title decider.

NBL Division Three 

In the North, Sheffield Elite Basketball Academy have dropped from 5-0 to 6-5, allowing Sheffield Sharks (9-2) and Leeds LDM (6-2) to leapfrog them at the top.

Liverpool (13-1) have finally lost their unbeaten tag but still have a healthy lead at the top of the North West conference, keeping themselves ahead of Manchester Swarm (11-2) and Cheshire Wire (10-3), who handed Liverpool their lone defeat back in December.

Nottingham Trent Hoods (7-1) sit atop the Midlands conference, but Loughborough Riders II (6-0) can move back into first should they win their games in hand.

Not too long ago, Essex Rebels II (11-0), Chelmsford Charge (8-3) and University of Hertfordshire Storm (6-4) were all still unbeaten in the East, but that conference now looks to be heading to the Rebels after they've stayed the course. 

Islington Panthers (9-1) have surged to the top of the London conference, and currently enjoy a comfortable buffer to the chasing London Sharks (5-3) and CoLA Southwark Pride (5-3).

It's all to play for in the South conference, with Barnet Bulldogs (12-1), Oxford Hoops (12-2), Greenhouse Sports (11-3) and Surrey Scorchers II (10-3) all in the title mix.

Kent Crusaders (9-1) and Crawley Storm (8-0) remain locked in at the top of the South East conference, and that division looks to be a two-team affair after unless Portsmouth Force (8-2) can make a late push or someone else falters. 

Finally, there's plenty of excitement in the South West with Cardiff City (7-1) and Plymouth Marjon Patriots (6-1) trading blows at the top, with Bath Basketball (5-2) and Plymouth Raiders (5-3) not far behind.


Main image credit - tgd.visuals