Manchester got their weekend off to the best possible start as they hammered Leicester Warriors 96-58 on Saturday. A 31-16 1st quarter set the tone for the defending champions as Duane Morgan scored 21 in the contest and Stefan Gill poured in 18 more, allowing Manchester to win all 4 quarters and secure a comfortable victory.
The loss leaves the Warriors in 9th place but still only 2 points away from a potential playoff berth. Rodney Sanders’ 14 points wasn’t close to being enough to slow down the Magic in this one but Leicester will still look to lean on him going forward if they’re to make it into the post season.
A missed buzzer beater and a blocked tip in meant that Manchester made it 2 wins out of 2 on the weekend as they narrowly scraped by a tired but dogged Essex Leopards side. 4thquarter heroics from captain Stefan Gill put the Magic ahead on multiple occasions and despite points from Hitchman, Hayes and Roberts, the Leopards just couldn’t secure what would have been a massive victory.
No basket was bigger than the triple Gill hit with 50 seconds remaining in the game. Down 89-86, the former BBL man made no mistake from downtown to tie things up. A free throw from AJ Roberts edged the visiting Leopards in front, but there was still time on the clock for Gill to slash down the lane and finish from close to put the Magic ahead one final time.
Gill finished with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, with Simon Anumba on 20 points and Duane Morgan and Lee Goldsborough both scoring 19. Darrell Bethune top scored for the Leopards on 21, Justin Hitchman had 13 and AJ Roberts and Dougie Bennett added 12 apiece.
Magic coach Paul Middleton commented: “We got away with one tonight. Stef makes a couple of big plays at the end and we play defence for a couple of possessions, and we get away. I’m not disrespecting Essex, because I thought they played quite well, but the opportunities they got were because of our awful defence. We can’t be like that again, because we’ll pay for it.”
AJ Roberts had a great weekend for Essex but couldn't prevent them from picking up 2 narrow losses - Essex Leopards
Essex’s weekend included not 1 but 2 close losses as Hemel outlasted the Leopards on Saturday for a vital 88-82 OT win. Khapri Alston led all scorers with 31 and AJ Roberts had 29 in reply for Essex.
After a blistering start saw the Storm pull out an early 21-8 lead after the first 10 minutes and that form continued for the hosts as they established a 40-25 advantage at the half. The lead reached its peak at 19 before 22 second half points from Roberts saw the Leopards make a stunning comeback to force OT and quieten the impressive home crowd. A 6-0 run in OT was enough to put the game beyond doubt for Hemel though and free throws from Nik Rhodes and Michael Darlow sealed the deal at 88-83.
Hemel’s Head Coach, David Allin Said: “Our second half performance was disappointing but it was a must-win game for us and in the end we had the determination and sheer physical effort to get the job done. In only his second game since arriving from America Khapri put in another outstanding performance for us hitting 31 points and grabbing 14 rebounds – a tremendous effort. He’s already proving to be a handful for opponents.”
Hemel's Wayne Yeboah finishes from close range as the Storm eased past Essex in OT - Linda Titmuss
Current league leaders Team Northumbria used a 17 point, 11 rebound double-double from National Cup Final MVP Malcolm Smith to defeat Lancashire 90-74 and heap more misery on to a struggling Spinners side.
A slow start left Lancashire trailing by 10 after the 1st quarter, a tall order to overcome against a team playing so well at the moment. Despite 22 points from Mark Rangely and 13 more from David Ulph, Newcastle were able to stretch their lead up to 13 by the half and keep the Spinners at bay during the 2nd half. Blayne Freckleton finished on 22 points for Northumbria, Lewis Champion had 21 and Smith 17. Rangely and Ulph were accompanied on the top scorers list by David Walsh on 13
Team Northumbria’s Jack Preston spoke after the game, “Perhaps there was a bit of a hangover from the Cup final win at Lituanica last weekend and maybe there still is. The score line against Lancashire looks comfortable but I still don’t think we played anywhere near as well as we can. To win by 16 points and not play well isn’t a bad thing but we know what we must do to improve between now and the end of the season.”
2 streaks continued this weekend as Reading added another victory to a win streak that now stands at 11, handing Westminster a 15th consecutive defeat in the process. Rotating his roster in order to reduce the minutes of some veteran players that have shouldered a significant workload in recent weeks, Reading Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces was able to get solid production from players like Paulin Jardim and Ibu Jassey Demba
Any suggestions of a potential upset were quelled early as the hosts ran out to a 30-16 lead that allowed them to control the remainder of the contest. Chris Hooper excelled once again with a 25 point, 16 rebound double-double and captain Danny Carter came within an assist of a rare triple-double, collecting 11 points, 13 boards and 9 dimes. Craig Ponder and Paulin Jardim both finished on 13 points. Abraham Ekperuoh top scored for the Warriors with 18, whilst Robert Musa Odia added 15 more.
Team Solent Kestrels were able to hold off a 4th quarter charge by the Trailblazers to claim a valuable road win and draw level with Derby on 20 points. Despite 29 in the contest from Matthew Ward-Hibbert, the hosts struggled from the outset, trailing by double digits after the 1st quarter before getting into a better rhythm and reducing the deficit to 41-34 by the half time buzzer.
Marquis Mathis was his usual influential self and his scoring allowed the visitors to stretch their advantage back up into double digits as the game moved into the 4th quarter. Whilst Derby did their best to mount a comeback, Solent never relinquished their lead.
Mathis finished on 29, with Raftopoulos adding 16 and Kirkman 14. For Derby, Ward-Hibbert dropped a team high 29 with Morrison scoring 18 and Stanley adding 9 more.
Matt Ward-Hibbert has been in fine form since joining Derby but his side keep slipping down the D1M table - Alan Mousley/AGM Pics
Bradford were able to restrict Lyonell Gaines to just 24 points as the Dragons claimed a solid 88-78 win on the South Cost Saturday. The victory puts the Dragons in the mix with 3 other teams all sat on 20 points as the battle for playoff seedings continues down the stretch.
Worthing did have a real chance to claim an open, free flowing contest and receive 2 vital points for their survival push but they couldn’t convert down the stretch. Free throws from Gaines narrowed the score to 79-76 Bradford with 1:49 to go, but the visitors were clinical in for the remainder o secure a double digit win.
With the game in the balance and just a single score separating the teams, Worthing will feel a basket interference call didn’t go their way, allowing momentum to swing back to Bradford and ultimately seal the Thunder’s fate. Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth though was visibly upset after the game as the no-call in his mind was the difference, “At the end of the day, that no-call decided the outcome, it’s very gutting to lose in this way but when your opposite number says that the referees missed that, it makes it even more heart breaking. But from there, our heads dropped and we lost our way a little and credit to Bradford for keeping their cool and getting the win.”
The top 3 scorers for Worthing were Gaines on 24, Jack Sunderland on 17 and Brendan Okoronkwo on 12. Rihards Sulcs led the way for the Dragons with 24, Marcus Gooding had 22 and Ricky Fetske 16.
With both sides in this one looking to make it a double win weekend, only 1 side would be going home happy on Sunday and the Kestrels made sure it would be a long drive North for the visiting Dragons as they secured an 83-74 win.
Trailing by 4 after the 1st half, Solent used points from Kirkman and Mathis to gradually push themselves in front, leading by a single point themselves heading into the last. That advantage was comfortably extended as Bradford fell off the pace in the 4th and ultimately paid the price.
Kirkman had 23, Mathis 21 and Raftopoulus 9 for the Kestrels, with Fetske dropping a game high 27 for the Dragons. Gooding’s 24 points and Jason Swaine’s 10 rounded out Bradford’s top 3 scorers.
Lituanica once against displayed their Jekyll and Hyde tendencies as they were thoroughly embarrassed by Loughborough on Sunday, losing by over 40 points for the 2nd time this season.
The Riders made this a lopsided game early, exploding for 37 1st quarter points to establish a sizable lead after just 10 minutes. From there, it was all downhill for the hosts as they capitulated to a terrible loss, highlighted by a 23-9 3rd quarter as the deficit continued to rise.
Josh Ward-Hibbert top scored for the rampant Riders with 22, with Noel Levi adding 15 of his own and young guard Reis Pinnock finishing on 14. A battling Mantas Guzys top scored for Lituanica with 23, but support was minimal as he was the only scorer for the hosts that make it into double figures.