A red hot Rockets side on their own court were too strong for Worthing as they condemned the Thunder to their first of 2 losses on the weekend. A high scoring 1st half and a season best 36 points from Craig Ponder were more than enough to get Reading a W and extend their win streak to 18.
Shooting 60% from the field, Reading fell behind 2-0 on the 1st possession of the game before ensuring that would be the only time they’d trail in this one. Hitting 16 3’s at a 52% rate, Reading lead 27-14 after 1 and 61-36 at the half. The visitors would trim that lead down to 15 in the 3rd thanks to a 16-2 run, but it wasn’t enough as the Rockets took care of business in the 4th.
Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth recognised that the key to Reading’s win was that they simply could not miss from the field. “It was a hard day for us, especially as I think we didn’t play badly at all, it was just Reading could score from any part of the court and when you have that confidence, everything is going for you,” Hildreth said.
Reading captain Dan Carter shoots over Worthing's Lyonell Gaines when these last met back in December - Kyle Hemsley
The weekend went from bad to worse for Worthing on Sunday as they suffered their 18th loss of the season. With only 2 games remaining compared to 3 for the teams around them, time is running out to ensure their D1M safety.
For a 2nd time on the weekend, Worthing struggled to cope with a team that found their range early and often as the Kestrels shot 60% from the field and managed to get 5 players into double figures in the scoring column. Leaders at 31-18 after 10 minutes, the visitors never looked back and handled the relegation threatened side with ease. Some heroics from Lyonell Gaines right after half time got the deficit down to 6 but Jalen Watson easily steered the lead back into double digits for Solent before finishing the contest with 28 points.
“Being truthful, there really isn’t many positive that I can think of, we are really disappointed,” Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth said. “It’s a kick in the teeth for the fans, who came out and supported us brilliantly. These sort of performances are simply just not good enough. Credit to Solent though, they have had an excellent first season in Division 1 and are fully deserving of a place in the playoffs.”
One positive for Worthing is that Lancashire also lost this weekend, going down to a Westminster team that has found some late season form. Grabbing a 2nd win of the season, the Spinners weren’t able to claim 2 points that would have been priceless for their own fight against the drop.
Leaving it late, the Warriors used 26 points in the game from Jonathan Johnson to come from behind in the 4th quarter to claim the win. Trailing 57-53 with 10 minutes remaining, Westminster delighted the home crowd as they took the final period 24-10 and with it the game.
Juan Manning was also solid for the hosts, he had 15 points to accompany Johnson’s efforts. David Ulph top scored for the Spinners and he had 18.
The Spinners couldn’t complete an unlikely season double over their local rivals and 2 losses on the weekend have done little to help their relegation fight.
Down 46-32 and with their loss to Westminster on Saturday still fresh in the mind, it would have been easy for the Spinners to fold in the final 20 minutes of this one. But instead the Lancashire team dug deep and behind the efforts of point guard Jack Hudson and veteran Mark Rangeley they managed to reel the hosts in with a 31 point 3rd quarter. Tied at 63-63, it was game on.
The Spinners were able to continue that momentum into the 4th but couldn’t maintain it as Manchester finished strong. Duane Morgan was clinical from the line to sink all 10 of his attempts from the stripe in the final period, capping off a 19-point individual performance and sealing the win.
Magic coach Paul Middleton commented, “I thought Jack Hudson did a great job, in the second half particularly. Rangeley came up with some big shots in the second half but I think we gave him those opportunities and he’s too good to turn those opportunities down. They’re not a bottom three team when they come here because they’re desperate to get a win. It’s kind of a level playing field.”
In the end, not a lot had changed by Sunday night as Essex Leopards narrowly lost their game on the weekend to make it defeats all round down at the bottom. That’s a problem for the Leopards though as they’re the odd team out at the moment if things stay as they are.
With the home crowd behind them, the Leopards needed all the encouragement they could get as they tried to mount a comeback in the 4th quarter. Trailing 59-48 with 10 minutes left, the hosts had it all to do and despite the best efforts of AJ Roberts who finished with 18 points, his side just couldn’t get it done.
With 3 games left on the season, time is running out for the Leopards who will be relegated if they cannot win between now and the end of the season. With games remaining against Lancashire and Worthing though, there is still hope.
AJ Roberts is having to shoulder a greater load on offence now that Darrell Bethune is done for the season - Essex Leopards
Before their win over Lancashire, Manchester starting their weekend by collecting a victory over Bradford thanks to another strong performance from Duane Morgan who finished with 23 points.
A back and forth 1st half with 18 lead changes and neither side able to get ahead by more than 4 points, things turned quickly after the break. With influential scorer Ricky Fetske forced to sit out the remainder of the contest with a head injury, Bradford lost their consistency and allowed the hosts to pull away. Winning the 3rd period 27-13, a close game was now much more one sided and Manchester won at a canter from there.
With Westminster enjoying a win on Saturday, they needed to take this game on Sunday as well to make sure that their potential for D1M survival continued for another week. Whilst the London club can still survive, it would require a miracle at this stage.
Adria Amabilino-Perez got hot early and ended up enjoying a solid game as he totalled 24 points. Winning the 2nd and 3rd quarters allowed the visitors to build a solid 59-45 lead with 10 minutes to go. Knowing their D1M future was at stake, Westminster really did fight hard and reduced their arrears significantly before running out of time.
Derby Head Coach Matt Shaw was relieved with the result after the game, knowing it would have been an easy one to let slip away, "We got a much needed win and although Westminster are at the bottom of the league we knew it would be tough game and they fought to the bitter end, so it's a pleasing result for us. Adria [Amabilino Perez] had another big game for us, he certainly seems to play well in the capital. He always makes a strong contribution at both ends of the floor and was literally filling the stat sheet. When he hits his first seven or eight shots, you know he's really making an impact.”
Holding onto that win against Westminster was all the more important considering Derby had already dropped 1 game on the weekend, losing out to a spirited Hemel side on Saturday in a competitive encounter.
The Storm really did have to tough things out though on a night when they seriously from the field and needed to dig deep to find ways to put points on the board. Shooting 36%, the visitors still mustered 28 more attempts than Derby thanks to intense defence and intimidating rebounding, particularly on offence. With a final count of 20 offensive boards to Derby’s 5, that stat made all the difference in a close game.
Hemel’s Head Coach Dave Allin was quick to praise his team’s determination and resilience, "Sometimes when the shots aren't falling you have to find other ways to win. Despite getting good looks we were having a cold night on offence so our defence forced Derby into turnovers and most important of all we were fantastic on the offensive boards.”
Khapri Alston finished with a 25 point, 11 rebound double-double as the American once again put in a solid performance. Brian Amabilino-Perez topped the scoring for Derby with 15 and Chris Taylor had 14 but it wasn’t enough as Hemel secured a valuable win.
Khapri Alston's impact on the score board has been useful for Hemel, but his ability on the glass has been a welcome addition to - Linda Titmuss
Dropped points for Derby was good news for Solent as they continued their run at securing 4th place. London Lituanica experienced a 2 loss weekend and used just 5 players in this one as they continue to struggle with injuries and unavailability.
It was always likely to be the case after their long home stand that Lituanica would have a blip but this has still been a remarkable drop in form. It wasn’t until the 2nd half of this one that Solent managed to pull away, with fatigue no doubt playing a factor on the threadbare London team. Trailing 37-34 at the half, that quickly became a double digit difference after 3 and the lead moved past 20 by the final buzzer.
Lituanica were able to give a better account of themselves on Sunday but still fell to another defeat as Reading notched win 19 of their current streak.
This one was up for grabs deep into the 4th but with the scores at 73-71 to the Rockets, the visitors seized their opportunity and went on a 13-2 run to close things out. Knocking in 3 trebles didn’t hurt and a tired London side just couldn’t keep up. Captain Danny Carter stood up to be counted right when it mattered, hitting 2 of those deep balls as Reading escaped a tough test in the capital with their title challenge still intact.
Carter finished on 17, as did big man Chris Hooper but the plaudits once again belonged to Ponder who led all scorers with 30. Audrius Damusi top scored for Lituanica with 20