Mad dash to the D1M finish line with 2 weekends to go

With time running out for teams to fit their remaining games in, all but 2 sides are on double header duty this weekend. With Westminster’s relegation confirmed on Thursday night, there is still plenty of other unfinished business across the league. We’ll take a look at all 13 D1M games this weekend as well as provide the score of the previous game that teams have played this season. With the primary tie breaker between two sides being their head to head record (including points difference) between each other over the 2 fixtures in a season, teams are not only looking to win but also secure any potential tiebreakers should two sides be equal on points come the end of the regular season.

Saturday
Reading Rockets (20-3) v Team Northumbria (20-3)

With Manchester still in the mix, you can’t call this a straight title decider but it’s a pretty big game in the grand scheme of things. With just 2 games left on the season for both teams after this one, a loss could be terminal for either side. The Rockets are playing catch up, trailing the head to head by 12 but in reality with both teams currently tied on 40 points, a win is the most important thing at stake here.

Rockets Head Coach Manuel Peña Garcés knows this has been a great season for his side regardless of how this weekend plays out, “We have put ourselves in a great position and I am so proud of my players for everything they are doing and I really hope this weekend we can show what we are about and create a little bit of history in what is an exciting period for the club.

Previous meeting – Team Northumbria 87 v 75 Reading Rockets

Siman Stewart has been a real veteran presence for Team Northumbria this season - Mansoor Ahmed

Manchester Magic (19-4) v Hemel Storm (11-12)

As Manchester still have a game to play against Reading, they’ll feel that they’re still in with a great chance of making a run at the title themselves. They’re going to need to win their 3 remaining games to have a shot though and that starts against a buoyant Hemel team on Saturday. The Storm are rolling right now and likely need just 1 more win to secure a playoff place. It would be a fitting reward for their form in 2017.

Hemel Head Coach Dave Allin knows Manchester is a difficult place to play but his side is close to achieving a season goal, “One more win should confirm a playoff spot for us and we’ll be hoping to achieve that this weekend. We’ve got through some difficult games in recent weeks so our confidence is high but an away game in Manchester is always a tough proposition. We have a game plan that we think will give us the best possible chance to win but we will have to be at our absolute best to get a positive result.

Previous meeting – Hemel Storm 78 v 92 Manchester Magic

Loughborough Student Riders (12-10) v Derby Trailblazers (14-8)

Despite going 1-3 in their last 4 games, Derby have still managed to hang on to 4th place thanks to their rivals struggling as well. With 4 games to go on their season, it’s going to be a busy couple of weekend for the Trailblazers but 4th place is still theirs for the taking if they can finish strong. Loughborough are in a nearly identical position, 1-3 in their last 4 and with 4 games to go on their season as well, they could do with a win here to. Whilst not in danger of slipping out of the playoff picture you’d think, a 5th or 6th seed is sure to be more appealing than a 7 or 8.

Assistant Coach / Performance Analyst Michael Hanson-Morris is well aware that Loughborough’s commitments outside of D1M could help them in this one, “Loughborough are coming into Saturday’s game off the back of their best performance of the season so far. At the BUCS Finals there were fantastic and since they only lose one player from that side, I’m sure they’ll want to try and carry that momentum with them.

Previous meeting – 1st game this season

Lancashire Spinners (6-16) v Team Solent Kestrels (14-9)

Another pair of teams that haven’t met this season, the game in Solent is still in need of being rescheduled and is very much in danger of not being played. This game is on the slate for Saturday though and carries massive weight for the Spinners in their effort to escape relegation. Kestrels lost twice to start the month but won back to back games last weekend in their quest to secure 4th place. As one of the two sides only playing 1 game this weekend, the Kestrels can put 100% into this one despite the long trip up the country.

Previous meeting – 1st meeting this season

Westminster Warriors (2-21) v Worthing Thunder (6-18)

As the other team with just 1 game this weekend, Worthing will be going all out to secure a vital 2 points in the capital on Saturday. When the teams last met, Lyonell Gaines had a field day and knocked down 37 points as the Thunder romped to victory. With Westminster now confirmed as relegated as the long list of permutations needed to keep them in D1M fell at the 1st hurdle on Thursday night, it remains to be seen how they will react now their fate is sealed.

Worthing Head Coach Daniel Hildreth is well aware that Westminster’s position could be a problem, “Westminster have some wins and have a little momentum going into this game. Sometimes playing with a nothing to lose mentality works in your favour and Jon Johnson has been putting up some big numbers for the side all year. We know that our fate is still in our own hands and that's something we are taking as motivation into the game.

Previous meeting – Worthing Thunder 91 v 73 Westminster Warriors

Lyonell Gaines is no stranger to high scoring this season and Worthing will need a little more from him if they're going to beat the drop - Kyle Hemsley

London Lituanica (10-13) v Essex Leopards (5-18)

A big game for Lituanica as they continue to search for a way to get themselves into the post season picture. Their 2-point deduction for a forfeit against Manchester in November is coming back to haunt them and it may mean that climbing the table is going to become an impossibility with so few games to go. 2 wins from their last 9 hasn’t helped matters either and with 2 of Lituanica’s remaining games being on the road, that doesn’t bode well for the side to finish the year on a roll.

Previous meeting – Essex Leopards 70 v 74 London Lituanica

Bradford Dragons (12-11) v Leicester Warriors (9-14)

Bradford couldn’t overcome the Magic in Manchester last weekend but have pretty much secured a playoff spot and can now turn their attention to improving their seeding with 3 games to go. With a trio of home games to finish the regular season, 6 more points would likely see the Dragons in the mix around 5th and 6th place. The Warriors will be a tough nut to crack in this one though as they’re on a 3 game winning streak that they’d love to continue a little longer. The playoffs might be out of reach now for Leicester, but they’re at least safe from the relegation battle below them.

Previous meeting – Leicester Warriors 88 v 77 Bradford Dragons 

Sunday
Lancashire Spinners (6-16) v Essex Leopards (5-18)

With both their games at home this weekend, the Spinners have an excellent opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the teams around them. With the trio of Mark Rangeley, David Ulph and Jack Hudson continuing to fire, the Spinners nearly found a way to top Manchester last weekend before coming up short in the 4th. A win on their own court here is more than attainable and would make serious waves at the bottom of the standings.

Previous meeting – Essex Leopards 87 v 86 Lancashire Spinners

Derby Trailblazers (14-8) v Manchester Magic (19-4)

With Derby clinging on to 4th spot and Manchester still trying to mount a title challenge, neither side can afford to drop points in this one. Derby have only won once on their own court since the beginning of January, so their home form leaves a lot to be desired. Manchester are also finding life tough right now with some struggles of their own. The main difference is the Magic are still picking up wins. How much longer can that continue before the reigning champions come up short against someone?

Assistant Coach / Performance Analyst Michael Hanson-Morris knows that regardless of the Magic’s form, they’re still a difficult team to play, “Manchester seem to have hit a small rough patch but have still found ways to win close games. There always a very difficult to play against with their size and have caused us major problems the last two times. If you can limit their offensive rebounding and paint scoring then you have an opportunity, but we need to play very well with a smaller line-up to do that.

Previous meeting – Manchester Magic 82 v 51 Derby Trailblazers

Despite a number of roster changes this season, Chris Taylor has been a consistent force for Derby throughout - Alan Mousley/AGM Pics

Leicester Warriors (9-14) v London Lituanica (10-13)

With both of these teams really needing maximum points to finish the season to put pressure on Hemel in 8th, one sides’ chances of making a run at the post season is likely to be derailed on Sunday. A close game when the two sides met in London, it appears unlikely that Lituanica will be that strong in the Midlands this weekend. That could mean an important victory for the Warriors and their chances of a post season place continuing a little longer.

Previous meeting – London Lituanica 79 v 72 Leicester Warriors

Reading Rockets (20-3) v Loughborough Student Riders (12-10)

After their top of the table clash with Team Northumbria, life doesn’t get much easier for Reading on Sunday as they welcome Loughborough to town. Chasing hard for a solid seeding in the post season, the Riders are unlikely to be an easy opponent for the Rockets. With the Berkshire side struggling for depth on their roster right now, 2 important games in 2 games will be a lot to ask. This Riders side featuring a number of young talents, expect Loughborough to push the tempo as well. That could be tough on the hosts.

Previous meeting – Loughborough Student Riders 67 v 88 Reading Rockets

Bradford Dragons (12-11) v Hemel Storm (11-12)

Hemel can lock up a post season berth with a win this weekend, but they can also look to move up the standings even further with Bradford and Loughborough only 2 points ahead of the Storm right now. That also means the potential is there for the Dragons to slide down the standings if they can’t pick up a few more wins of their own. Things are getting tight in mid-table and someone is going to lose out here.

We were disappointed with our overtime loss to Bradford earlier in the season,” Hemel Coach Dave Allin said. “We knew where the threats would come from but were unable to contain them. Marcus Gooding dropped 45 on us that day and we’ll have to do better on that front whilst not losing sight of the other talent that Bradford will have on the floor. It’ll be a long hard weekend for us but we hope to return home in the knowledge that we have secured a playoff spot.

Previous meeting – Hemel Storm 94 v 104 Bradford Dragons

Westminster Warriors (2-21) v Team Northumbria (20-3)

Whilst Reading must navigate a tricky tie on Sunday against the Riders, Team Northumbria get to face a much more appealing prospect as they head to the capital to take on the Warriors. This one was a blow out when the sides met in the North East back in December, and with Westminster now relegated and Northumbria steaming towards a potential championship, there is little to suggest the balance of power will have changed here.

Previous meeting – Team Northumbria 98 v 62 Westminster Warriors