Ahead of this weekend’s NBL Playoff Finals, we’ve got a preview for each of the six games, along with some quotes, insight and details on how you can follow all the action as it happens!
Worthing Thunder v Hemel Storm
NBL Division 1 Playoff Final
Sunday 29 April 2018 – 3:30pm
After a regular season dominated by the race for the title between Loughborough and Solent, neither side was able to translate their success into a deep post season run. Instead, #4 seed Worthing and #7 seed Hemel are the ones battling it out in Manchester for the NBL Division One title.
In Zaire Taylor, Worthing have one of the leading players in the NBL. The 31-year-old led the league in scoring with 26.1 points per game, also recording a league-high 3.4 steals per game to boot. He is integral to the Thunder’s cause and he’s sure to put in a shift in Sunday’s showcase. The mid-season addition of Marquis Mathis has been a great move for the South coast club as the American forward has added a physical interior presence to the Worthing roster, and Jorge Ebanks, James Grinham and captain Brendan Okronkwo all add to the depth of talent on offer for Coach Daniel Gayle.
Though they may have struggled in the league, Hemel have thrived when playing knockout basketball this season. Winners of the National Cup in January after a 94-77 win over Manchester, Coach Youngblood’s side have also excelled in this year’s post season despite their low seeding. Wins against #2 Solent and #4 Reading meant a place in the Final for the Storm and they’re sure to bring with them a terrific following. Cup Final MVP AJ Roberts is a big game player, but Hemel’s roster is deep. Captain Bode Adeluola, Tom Adorian, Michael Darlow, Wayne Yeboah and 7’0” Lee Greenan all present a threat to Worthing’s quest for success in what is sure to be an intriguing game to end the 2018 Finals.
Worthing Thunder guard Brendan Okoronkwo,“Our goal has always been to make the Final. We've been systematic with the playoffs, taking it step-by-step and we'll use the two weeks running up to be locked in and bring silverware back to the South. Hemel are a physical, high energy team. I expect both sides to lay it all on the line. With so much talent on both roster, heart will likely decide the final result.”
Hemel Storm Head Coach Robert Youngblood said, “We beat a higher seeded team in the quarter-finals, we beat a higher seeded team in the semi-finals and there’s no reason why we can’t beat a higher placed team in the Final. We’re playing really good team basketball now after an up and down regular season and you can be sure we’ll be preparing for what is a very talented and experienced Worthing team.”
Essex Blades v Anglia Ruskin University
WNBL Division 1 Playoff Final
Sunday 29 April 2018 – 1:15pm
Sunday’s WNBL Division One Playoff Final between Essex and Anglia Ruskin looked an incredibly unlikely pairing when the competition stopped for its annual Christmas break.
After playing their final game of 2017, Ruskin were 1-8 and rock bottom of the standings. Going 9-4 the rest of the way meant that ARU were no longer just trying to survive, but managed to slide into the 7th seed for the playoffs. Impressive wins against Southwark and Oxford Brookes in the post season saw Anglia Ruskin’s resurrection completed, they have had some journey in the last four months!
For the Blades, their story is much more straight forward. As the cream of the crop in Division One, they have rarely looked troubled throughout the campaign. A 20-1 record is a testament to that and the regular season title was locked up some time ago. A surprise loss to Ipswich in the Women’s National Cup Final was an unexpected bump in an otherwise smooth road that could well lead to playoff glory. With the Blades holding the #1 seed and Anglia Ruskin the #7 seed, the form book would suggest a comfortable win for Essex could well be on the cards. However, these two sides have matched up well in the regular season and despite two victories for the league winners, they were both close games. The edge might be with the Blades, but this one is far from a done deal.
Essex Blades forward Ellie Shaxon, “We’re really excited to be in the WNBL Playoff Final for the first time. We’ve had a good season so far but winning the playoffs has been our ultimate goal. We’re fully aware of the success Anglia Ruskin have had this season, especially in the run up to and including the playoffs so we know we have to play our best to win. They’re a well-coached, strong group that have beaten teams seeded above them in the league to make it to the Final. We’re looking forward to a competitive match and I’m sure it will be a great representation of the women’s game.”
Anglia Ruskin guard Marianna Maddaloni, “This Final is proof that if you work hard and the team believe in what they are doing and in each individual, what is unimaginable at the beginning of the season is still achievable. I expect us to show the results of our hard work and team focus and if we do, the best team will win.”
Nottingham Hoods v Thames Valley Cavaliers
NBL Division 2 Playoff Final
Sunday 29 April 2018 – 11:00am
As the undoubted top two sides in NBL Division Two this season, Sunday’s schedule opens with a terrific match-up between Nottingham and Thames Valley.
After finishing last season 10-12, the Hoods began this season as a surprise package who gradually shifted to being the hottest team in the division. Winning the first 10 games of their campaign then helped to establish Nottingham as a genuine promotion candidate, a tag they lived up to as they claimed the regular season title with a 20-2 record. Coach Ryan Westley has the Midlands side playing some impressive basketball and the team has continued to go from strength to strength.
Despite Nottingham’s dominance of Division Two this season, the good news for Thames Valley is that they were one of the few teams to beat the Hoods this year. A 99-86 win in January ended Nottingham’s unbeaten start to the season as the Cavs marched on to an 18-4 record and 2nd place in the standings. These sides did also meet in the semi-finals of the Patrons Cup, a D2 only competition, where Thames Valley won by the narrowest of margins after a hotly debated final call gave them an 86-85 win. These two offensively minded teams are so well matched; it should provide some thrilling basketball at the National Basketball Performance Centre on Sunday.
Nottingham Hoods Head Coach Ryan Westley, “It’s an awesome achievement from the guys to fight all season and reach the Final. They have all bought in to our mission and I’m proud of each and every one of them. For this game, you can expect what we always seek to give; fast paced intensity which is exciting to be a part of and watch.”
Thames Valley Cavaliers Head Coach Robert Banks, “We look forward to another exciting Final after the Patrons Cup and the fourth match-up of the season between the Hoods and Cavs. Nottingham are a first-class organisation and a model for the rest of the NBL. They have an outstanding team that is deep, talented, well coached and they play outstanding team basketball on both ends of the floor. This match is not only for the playoff title but also a battle of pride between two up and coming teams. This should be an excellent opportunity for fans to come out and see an exciting basketball match.”
Myerscough College v East London All-Stars
NBL Division 3 Playoff Final
Saturday 28 April 2018 – 4:30pm
The Final of the NBL Division 3 playoffs is a North v South encounter between two top sides who should prove to be evenly matched to finish Saturday’s schedule.
Myerscough have already claimed some silverware this season, winning the National Shield back in February. A knock out competition for Division Three and Four sides only, these two sides met in the semi-final of that competition with Myerscough claiming a narrow 86-81 win. With consistent success at youth level and 17-year-old Callan Low recently representing Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, this is a programme with a lot to shout about right now and they’ll be playing hard to finish their season in style.
East London have done well in their first season in Division Three, competing on all fronts after the disappointment of relegation last year. A strong regular season campaign in a competitive South division led to a 13-5 record and a tough seeding in the post season. Undeterred, the London side won back to back games on the road against Loughborough Student Riders II and then South division winners Greenwich Titans to book their place in tomorrow’s Final. Arif Sempala and Daniel Delgado have provided an effective 1-2 punch for the All-Stars this season, they’ll want to keep that form going to help lead their side to glory.
Myerscough College Head Coach Neal Hopkins, “We are delighted to be playing in the Playoff Final, we have worked tirelessly all year and this is a great reward for our hard work. East London are a team we are familiar with and we know we will have to be at our best to beat them. I know that our guys will come out and be ready to play, I’ve no doubt that the Final will be a fantastic game.”
East London All-Stars Head Coach Joshua Tackie, “I'm happy for the guys! We have improved over the course of the season and we showed that against a lot of well-coached, competitive teams. I'm looking forward to the Final and if we continue to improve at this same rate, we will have a lot to be proud of.”
Ipswich v Derbyshire Gems
WNBL Division 2 Playoff Final
Saturday 28 April 2018 – 2:15pm
Ipswich and Derbyshire Gems will contest the WNBL Division Two Final on Saturday afternoon as two teams who are more than familiar with one another.
Playing each other three times during the North division’s regular season schedule, Ipswich have managed to take all three fixtures to give them the pre-game advantage. That said, the most recent game between the sides provided a narrow 78-73 Ipswich win, suggesting the Gems can match the Suffolk side on their day.
Despite playing outside of the Division One this season, there is an argument to be made that Ipswich might be the best women’s team in the country. In January they shocked eventual Division One winners Essex Blades in the National Cup Final, beating 3 other D1 sides on their way to the big game. They have a core of talented, young players who have been together for a number of years in the junior ranks, making them a tough team to beat regardless of the occasion.
Ipswich Head Coach Nick Drane “Making the Playoff Final means a huge amount to us, not only to our team, but our whole club. We’ve had a fantastic season, not losing a game to this point, but we take nothing for granted. Winning the National Cup really put us on the map at the senior women’s level and since then we’ve had the goal of winning a regular season, cup and playoff treble. Derbyshire Gem’s pose a real threat to that goal though. They are every bit as good as the Division One teams we played during our cup run and we will need to be at our best to get the win.”
Derbyshire Gems Head Coach Pete Kelly, “I’m very proud to lead the Encon Derbyshire Gems in their first National Final in only their second year in the WNBL. The group has battled through adversity all year and made tremendous sacrifices to have the opportunity to perform on the biggest of stages. Ipswich are one of the country's few unbeaten side and I commend them for that. We’ve faced them three times already without success in the league campaign, however I feel we have already shown in previous encounters that our brand of basketball is entertaining and a challenge for any opponent.”
BC Medelynas v Team Derby
NBL Division 4 Playoff Final
Saturday 28 April 2018 – 12:00pm
BC Medelynas and Team Derby open up the weekend as they clash in the NBL Division Four Final, pitting the winners of the South East division against the victors in the Midlands.
BC Medelynas were the only side in Division Four to remain unbeaten this season, going a perfect 18-0 against some tough competition in and around the capital. No game was closer than their trip to Chelmsford when the Lions took their contest deep into three periods of OT before Medelynas emerged victorious 109-103. A hard-fought 105-100 win over a strong Derby Trailblazers II was a statement win for Medelynas in the semi-finals of these playoffs, they’ll now hope to keep a zero in their loss column for one more game.
Team Derby had to play a chasing game for potions of their campaign with divisional rivals Derby Trailblazers II looking strong during the regular season. An 87-72 victory over the Trailblazers in early February formed part of a 13-game winning streak to finish the season though, sending Team Derby surging into the post season. From there, routine wins over Warwickshire Hawks, Huish Taunton Tigers and Barking Abbey saw the Midlands side into the Final.
BC Medelynas guard Andrej Golovin, “We’re very pleased to participate in the Final. We’ve had a great season and we all wish to finish unbeaten. We expect a hard game and hope both teams can show their best basketball.”
Team Derby Head Coach Mark Woodhouse, “It’s not been a straight forward journey in our first season by any means. We’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity but the guys and coaching staff have done it together. We are in great form at the minute and looking forward to the challenge of our first Playoff Final. There are some great teams in this division this year and we are proud to be one of the final two."