The NBL season got underway across the top divisions, with some great match ups to mark the opening weekend. We’ll take a look below at all the action from Week 1, 28/29 September 2019. Live Stats links have been hyperlinked into the text.
Two Midlands teams with big aspirations this season put on a real show for the fans at Noel Baker on Saturday with a nail-biter of a contest that went down to the game’s final seconds.
With Derby leading comfortably at 73 - 61 to begin the final quarter, Leicester refused to go quietly and with a 13 - 2 run, completed by a Martin Gayle triple, the scores were level at 85 with 2 minutes to go.
Malcolm Smith scored 8 of his 35 points in the final frame and his baskets kept Derby just ahead. Trailblazer’s captain Oli Stanley hit 1 of 2 from the line with 13 seconds remaining to put the hosts up 90 - 87, though Leicester's TJ Henderson would drain a dramatic triple with 8 ticks remaining to tie things up once more.
Needing one last big play, it was Smith once again who would get the ball, drawing a late foul before holding his nerve to hit one of his two shots from the charity stripe to provide his team with a win by the narrowest of margins.
Smith was on fire in contest, adding 11 rebounds and 3 assists to his 35 points. Henderson top scored for Leicester with 29 points, adding nine rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Last season’s D1M regular season and playoff champions Team Solent Kestrels got their campaign off to a flying start, dismantling Essex & Herts Leopards 122 - 61 thanks to 26 points from Ian Smith and Travis Charles.
Exciting young guard Cameron Hildreth announced himself on the D1M stage with a highly impressive performance to lift Worthing Thunder past Barking 103-75. The GB age group star dropped 30 points, going 9/16 from the field including 3/5 from range, adding 11 boards, two assists, two steals and a block.
Despite leading with less than 2:30 to go in the game, Bradford Dragons couldn’t hang on against Thames Valley Cavaliers as the hosts stormed back to grab an 82-78 win. Martelle McLemore was impressive as always, scoring 29 points, as Rafi Saipe (16), Rihards Sulcs (15), Ricky Fetske (14) and Albert Margai (11) all made it into double digits for Bradford.
Of the two newly promoted sides, Westminster were able to grind out an 87-84 home win against Reading thanks to a 22 point, 10 rebound double-double from captain Jon Johnson. Liverpool didn’t fare quite as well as Hemel dominated in the North West on the way to a 103-69 victory. All but 1 of Hemel’s roster scored eight or more points in that one, led by an impressive 12 point, 14 rebound, 11 assist triple-double from Sam Newman.
Chris Mellor, Bradford Dragons Head Coach: “We dug ourselves a big hole early but played well in quarters two and three. We had a chance at the end but a big three from them and a couple of missed block outs were the decisive plays in the last few minutes.”
Delme Herriman, Liverpool Head Coach: “It was always going to be tough playing against two seven footers when we had all four of our big guys unable to play for various reasons. We shot very poorly from the outside, 6/35, and failed to stop their big guys inside. Very sloppy offence overall as players were playing out of position.”
Tom Baker, E&H Leopards Head Coach: “It certainly goes down as one of the toughest losses I have had as coach and the team felt it too. It wasn't an easy starting the league campaign against last season's league and play-off champions but we definitely felt we should have performed better than we did.”
Eight fixtures span across week two during the 5/6 October. All eyes will be on the South coast for a rematch of last season’s playoff final as Solent travel to Worthing, plus Loughborough get their season underway as they host Essex on Saturday.
Other highlights include Reading taking a short trip East to face off against Thames Valley in Uxbridge, whilst Nottingham Hoods kick start their campaign with a double header against Hemel then Loughborough.
D1M Player of the Week will be announced tomorrow, so stay tuned to our social channels for that!
Main image credit: Alan Mousley/AGM Pictures