Despite Sunday’s National Trophy Final (which you can read about HERE), this weekend’s D1M fixtures remain relatively unaffected as 7 games span the weekend. With Worthing and Westminster on double header duty, the Thunder especially have the opportunity to improve their fortunes at the foot of the table before Monday morning. As usual, we’ll provide the score of the previous game that teams have played this season in D1M. 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.
Whilst all eyes on Sunday may well be on the National Trophy, the game between Lancashire and Worthing carries huge ramifications for the final potential relegation spot at the bottom of D1M. With just 2 points separating the clubs in 12th and 13th, the Spinners know a win will help to get them back into the mix with Worthing, Essex and 10th placed Leicester. Veteran Mark Rangeley issuing a rallying cry this week, the message is simple, “We need to drag ourselves out of this rut and find a way to win.” The Spinners took the first meeting between these teams on the South Coast by 4, if they could secure the head to head this weekend and get another win, it would be massive.
For Worthing, this game represents their 2nd game in as many days and that is sure to affect their performance. Whilst a trip up to face a strong Loughborough team on Saturday isn’t the best preparation for such a vital encounter, if the Thunder can get a result there they’d be carrying a lot of momentum into this one. This weekend is even bigger for the Thunder given their upcoming fixtures. If they come up short here, their next 4 games are vs Manchester, vs Derby, @ Reading, vs Solent. Few teams would expect to take many points from that stretch, so the time is now if Worthing are going to escape from trouble.
Previous meeting – Worthing Thunder 74 v 78 Lancashire Spinners
Worthing's Brendan Okoronkwo will be hoping his side collect some valuable points this weekend - Kyle Hemsley
With considerable focus on Worthing and their attempts to retain their D1M status, Loughborough still have a job of their own to do and a win on Saturday would be important for keeping pace in the race for the 4th playoff seed. Levi Noel maintained his hot form last weekend with 20 points against the Spinners and looks a solid bet to continue that scoring against a struggling Thunder team.
If Worthing are going to get something from this game, it will require a change of fortunes on the road. Winless away from home since November, getting a result in this one will be tough. That said, the two teams were divided by just 1 point when the Riders topped the Thunder earlier this season, so Coach Hildreth will fancy his side to once again match Loughborough and this time hopefully come away with a result. Lyonell Gaines had 36 points that day, Worthing would love that kind of production from him again this weekend.
Previous meeting – Worthing Thunder 65 v 66 Loughborough Student Riders
The Warriors are looking at 3 straight double header weekends stretching into early March and with a postponed game against Derby still needing to be rearranged, that will become a 4th double header at some stage. With 11 games left on the season, there is still plenty that can be achieved by Westminster. It may be a long shot to escape the D1M trap door based on previous form, but why not? If they can just get a win, who knows where it could take them.
Another team in the group vying for that 4th playoff seed, Solent have quietly won 4 of their last 5 to continue pushing up the table. A win this weekend for such a talented roster should be a formality, but the Kestrels can’t afford a slip up if they’re going to keep pace with Loughborough and Derby above them.
Previous meeting – Team Solent Kestrels 84 v 61 Westminster Warriors
Leicester appear poised to be able to keep their head above water and stay just clear of the relegation scrap below them, but unlikely to make a significant push up the table. Without a win in their last 4, and with this game then a trip to Reading upcoming, that winless streak may continue a little while longer until the Leicester face Westminster on 25th February. And with the Leopards and Spinners still to play this season, the Warriors could play a big role in the D1M relegation battle one way or another, even if they avoid it themselves.
Derby maintained their grasp on 4th place for another week as they secured a 74-61 win over Essex last time out. A game against Leicester represents another opportunity to keep moving forward, but Assistant Coach/Performance Analyst Michael Hanson-Morris knows the Warriors are a tough opponent, “Leicester are never easy to play against, they play a fairly unique type of basketball and they do a good job of trying to take teams out of their normal game and force them to find other ways to win. It’s very rare that these games are decided by a large margin and we have to be prepared to battle on every possession.” Any kind of win would be very valuable to Derby right now, regardless of the final score.
Previous meeting – Derby Trailblazers 62 v 56 Leicester Warriors
Derby are hanging on to 4th place thanks in part to young star Brian Amabilino-Perez - David Amabilino
3 wins in their last 4 games have allowed Hemel to pull themselves away from the scrap at the base of the table and into the mix for 8th and a potential playoff spot. That position is currently held by their opponents this weekend, London Lituanica, and a win in this one would be big. With momentum on their side, Head Coach Dave Allin is pleased with what he’s seeing from the Storm right now, "We’ve made good progress in recent weeks and won some important games. Our American signing, Khapri Alston, has been a big factor in those wins and he’ll continue to improve as he adjusts to the English game. Lituanica’s results have been very inconsistent this season but there is no doubt that, at full strength, they are one of the best teams in the League. We’re expecting another full house at Sportspace which will hopefully give us the impetus to extend our winning run.”
Based on the season to date, the smart money is on a downturn in form for Lituanica over the next few weeks. Facing 4 straight away games, the London side haven’t travelled well this season and have 2 heavy defeats to their name away from home, plus a 20-0 forfeit. With the Trophy Final on tap for Sunday, there is a possibility that Lituanica struggle in this one with a depleted roster. Then again, they could also win by 30!
Previous meeting – London Lituanica 108 v 78 Hemel Storm
With Loughborough, Derby and Solent all facing winnable fixtures, Bradford have drawn the short straw in the battle for 4th spot as they take on a powerful Team Northumbria side this weekend. After 2 losses on the bounce to Solent and Reading, the Dragons need to get back on track as soon as they can. Their fixtures are generally kind between now and the end of the season barring a trip to Manchester, so Bradford will fancy their chances of securing a high playoff seed if they can get rolling.
All that Team Northumbria need to do right now is to keep winning. With Manchester and Reading both having games in hand that they need to win to match the North East side in 1st, the more victories the leaders can string together, the more pressure is created as the weeks tick by. Last time out, Northumbria had to grind out a win over a stubborn Leicester Warriors team. But win they did, and with Malcolm Smith continuing to play at a high level, they have a genuine match winner to compliment a strong roster.
Previous meeting – Team Northumbria 94 v 91 Bradford Dragons
American Malcolm Smith has been a top contributor for Team Northumbria this season - Kyle Hemsley
Home games may be the key to getting something started for the Warriors, but a fixture against a Reading side that hasn’t lost in 13 D1M outings isn’t likely to be a good place to start. Facing the Rockets back at the start of the month, the Warriors lost out by 24 points and there is little to suggest a similar score line won’t be on the cards for this weekend.
Further bad news for the Warriors, despite getting beaten by Reading recently, Head Coach Manuel Peña Garcés didn’t think his team played that well! This week, the Rockets play caller said he wanted to see another gear from his team, “Last time against Westminster, although we won comfortably in the end, we did not give the performance we wanted and we will be looking to change that this time around. Getting the win will be the most important thing of course but that will come through performance and that’s where our focus will be this week.” With the news that Joel Keeble is likely to miss the rest of the regular season after complications with his wrist injury, look for Dan Carter, Craig Ponder and Chris Hooper to continue shouldering the load going forward.
Previous meeting – Reading Rockets 95 v 55 Westminster Warriors