Loughborough’s post season fairy tale continued this weekend as they pulled off the most unlikely of results to down D1M champions Team Northumbria and book their place in the Playoff Final. Levi Noel was the hero as he top scored with 18 points but it was a real team effort from the visitors who only had 2 players score into the double digits.
Riders started the game as the meant to go on, refusing to bow to the higher seeded Northumbria before concluding the 1st quarter up 17-10. If the home fans were hoping this would be the wakeup call their side needed, they were mistaken as Loughborough continued to push their advantage and led 34-23 going into the break.
Northumbria needed players to stand up and be counted in the 2nd half but even Malcolm Smith was kept quiet, the American eventually finished with 13. Lewis Champion was the lone spot of resistance on a tough afternoon but even his 18 points weren’t enough to stem the flow in the 3rd quarter as the Riders once again came out firing. After points from Noel, Alex Roberts and Max Richardson, that period also went to the visitors and with the difference between the sides passing 20, there was little to play for in a high scoring but evenly matched final quarter.
Loughborough's Alex Roberts is a talented young guard who will enjoy the chance to shine on under the National Basketball Performance Centre lights in a few weeks time - Joe Pinchin
Team Solent were powerless to stop Manchester returning to a 3rd consecutive D1M Playoff Final as the Magic ran out to a comfortable victory at the Amaechi Centre on Saturday. American Duane Morgan led all scorers with 27, adding 7 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks to the Magic cause.
Reflecting the final score, it was telling that the Kestrels only led this game once as they scored the first basket to get things underway. After that it was largely one-way traffic and the Magic pushed on early to take the 1st quarter 26-16.
Manchester youngster Kaiyem Clearly took over in the 2nd quarter and displayed his impressive skillset. Finishing with 14 points for the game, 12 came before the half and with Morgan continuing to fire before Jack Minster joined the party as well it was all Manchester to close the half as the hosts went to the break up 54-41.
Displaying their depth in the 2nd half, Manchester were able to get Simon Anumba past the 10-point mark in the 3rd quarter before Stefan Gill did the the same in the 4th. With 5 Manchester players all finding ways to add to their team’s total, even 16 points from Marquis Mathius and 14 more from Jorge Ebanks wasn’t enough to keep Solent in the hunt as they eventually fell away to a double digit defeat.
In a top of the table clash between two sides that produced some high quality basketball in the regular season, Southwark once again came out on top against Charnwood to end their playoff run. Having inflicted some key defeats on the Riders already this year, the Pride were able to add one more behind 17 points from Alimat Onuyemi-Daniel and 14 from Khaleah Edwards.
A slow start from Charnwood didn’t help the cause and after 10 minutes they were chasing the game down 14-6. Credit to the Riders for keeping things close though as despite being unable to reduce their arrears, the hosts weren’t really successful in pulling their lead out to a much bigger margin. The visitors had Kelsey Cuddy to thank for that but as the only Riders player to make it to double digits on 10 points, the low volume of scoring was never going to be enough.
That ultimately proved fatal in the final quarter as a 45-33 score line to the Pride quickly got out of hand as the lead passed 20. The Riders prospects of a comeback were slim to begin with, but they were non-existent as the final frame played out.
Alimat Onuyemi-Daniel is a talented player on a loaded Southwark roster. They'll be tough to stop this post season - Mansoor Ahmed
The Kestrels demonstrated the kind of quality that saw them win the D1W title as the South Coast side ended Bristol’s post season dreams on Sunday. Towering forward Inga Muciniece led all scorers with 20 as the Flyers struggled to find an answer to her powerful inside game.
After playing out an entertaining and even 1st quarter, the hosts took control in the 2nd to put their mark on proceedings. A 25-14 period for the Kestrels with points from Kalina Axentieva, season-long standout Ekimini Essien and Muciniece meant the #1 seeds went into the break with a healthy advantage.
Amani Clark led the fight back for the visitors in the 2nd half and finished with a team high 17 points but everything that Bristol tried, Solent had an answer for. Cutting the difference down to 5, Solent then went on an 8-0 run to once again establish their positive position. Expending most of their energy in the 3rd and after having to deal with Solent’s full court press for the duration, the Flyers fell away late with the game already looking to be over. The final score wasn’t representative of how close the contest had been for large stretches.
The win for Solent sets up a 4th round of their yearlong rivalry with Southwark. With the 2 sides splitting their regular season games before the Pride won comfortably in the National Cup Final, it will be interesting to see which way this match up finally swings.
An OT classic in the North East went the way of Thames Valley after a do it all performance of 27 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 steals in a full 45 minutes of work from Martelle McLemore. Close for the majority of the 2nd half, it wasn’t a surprise than an extra frame was needed to split these 2 highly competitive sides.
Missing stand out Richard Austin, the hosts were always likely to be up against it and that proved to be the case as the Cavs leapt out to an early 26-17 lead. Credit to the hosts though as they regrouped and behind the scoring of Romonn Nelson who had 7 in the quarter, they found a way to trail by just 1 at the break.
Opening up a 9-point gap to start the 3rd, Thames Valley tried to move out of sight but to no avail. Nelson popped up once more with a couple of baskets and the lead was trimmed down to 2 once again. The back and forth nature of the game was on full display in the 4th as the lead changed hands no less than 8 times as both teams tried to grab the win. With a minute to go, a person foul and a technical on Robert Banks Jr led to 4 free throws for Newcastle which Irving Egglestone promptly sank to give his side a 2-point lead. Banks atoned for his error though by knocking down a jumper to tie the game back up at 77. Missed chances by both sides in the final 45 seconds meant that score would stay that way until the final buzzer.
With both teams using their bench sparingly throughout regulation, it was a war of attrition once the extra period began. Thames Valley grabbed the initiative early after baskets from Philip Perre, Banks and a triple from Luke Sanders. That gap proved telling as despite trying to tie the game up, Newcastle just couldn’t find a way back. Frank Urli got the deficit down to 3 but after further missed opportunities the hosts had no choice but to foul and the game was decided after a pair of Banks free throws.
Martelle McLemore continues to put up impressive numbers but Thames Valley are far from a one man team - Mansoor Ahmed
A 2nd half fight back kept this game close but Ipswich ultimately came up short in their goal of derailing Kent’s perfect D2M season. With a league title already in the bag alongside a return to the top tier of the NBL pyramid, the Crusaders can now focus solely on post season glory.
Starting hot, the hosts ran out to a 30-18 lead after 10 minutes and that cushion would be the difference come the end of the game. Amin Adamu continued his impressive season to finish on 22 and John Shodipo added 18 more. With Caleb Fuller driving a potential Ipswich comeback, the teams tied a competitive 2nd period to head to the break with a 52-40 Kent score line.
It was a similar story in the 3rd as Ipswich continued their quest to get back in the game and the Crusaders repeatedly kept them at arm’s length. That resolve ended with 1:25 left on the clock though as Luke Mascall-Wright nailed back to back threes to get the visitors back within 2 points. That was as good as it would get though as Ipswich’s next effort could only find the rim and they were forced to foul from there on out.
“I thought we were great in the first half, and throughout the game offensively we were pretty good,” said Kent Head Coach Lloyd Gardner. “We made a few mistakes when playing with speed that were uncharacteristic for us. Having said that though we just couldn’t shake Ipswich off, they showed great resilience, every time we got up they got back at us and that’s credit to their attitude and the way they play.”