24 points from Lyonell Gaines plus 18 from Brendan Okoronkwo and a strong 3rd quarter effort were enough for Worthing to grab an important victory in their quest to avoid D1M relegation. More importantly, this win and a bad weekend for Essex meant the Thunder have managed to climb up to 12th and away from potential danger.
In a low scoring game where both teams struggled from the floor, it was Derby’s shortcoming that proved the most fatal. With an offence that takes a lot of shots from deep, the Trailblazers were just 16% from beyond the arc. Coupled with 28 turnovers in the game, those problems were just too much for the visitors to overcome. A key 11-0 run in the 3rdquarter allowed Worthing to stretch out a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, especially in such a low scoring affair.
“It was a great win for us tonight,” said Worthing Coach Daniel Hildreth. “We know that they can shoot the ball tremendously so it was about making life hard for them on the perimeter and we did just that. We ran them off the line and made them drive to the hoop where they don’t have a lot of confidence in that I believe and we stuck with our game plan throughout. We made key defensive stops and offensively we maintained our composure.”
Derby assistant Paul Bowen had this to add, "It's always a tough road trip, partly because of it being so far! We had a great week in practise and going into the game, we felt we had what was required to get the win. It was disappointing because the travelling fans were fantastic as always, but the defeat means we'll have push harder still to secure a top four spot in the play-offs."
Worthing will be glad to have Brendan Okoronkwo back as he recently missed time through injury - Kyle Hemsley
Reading continued to steamroller their way through the league as they put up a 17th consecutive victory this weekend at the expense of Lancashire. Defeat wasn’t terminal for Spinners as like Worthing above, they managed to stay out of trouble due to Essex’s 2 loss weekend.
Reading did most of their damage in the 2nd quarter, dropping an impressive 36 points to amass a 59-35 lead at the half. Despite 19 points from Mark Rangeley, the hosts couldn’t find a way back into this one. Dan Carter was once again on form for Reading, he scored 28 including 6 3-pointers, whilst Craig Ponder added 21.
The win keeps Reading firmly on the heels of league leaders Team Northumbria with both teams currently sat on 3 losses each and due to meet on 18th March.
Another team looking to keep pace at the top, Manchester were able to do just that as they handled Loughborough easily on Saturday. 18 points from American import Duane Morgan were enough to keep the Magic in front after a strong 19-6 opening quarter.
The Riders managed to keep things more respectable in the 2nd quarter but still went into the half trailing 38-21. From there, the reigning Champions showed no signs of letting up, claiming the 3rd quarter to put the game beyond doubt. Henri Langton was the main threat for the hosts, he had 11 and was 1 of only 2 players to reach double digits for the Riders.
Despite being a tough place to play this season, Team Northumbria continued their impressive away form with a solid win in Hemel on Saturday. 24 points from Malcolm Smith was enough for the North East side to retain 1st place and stay in pole position with just 3 games left on their season.
Trying to mount a challenge behind Khapri Alston, Hemel kept things close in the early going before falling away in the 2nd, leaving themselves in a hole down 54-44 at the half. With talent on their roster in the form of Alston, Nik Rhodes and Tom Adorian, the Storm will have fancied themselves to get back into this one but Newcastle proved to be too strong down the stretch and held out for their 20th win of the season.
Bradford capitalised on a struggling Essex Leopards side Saturday, enjoying 24 points from Marcus Gooding on their way to a valuable win. The loss started the weekend off poorly for the travelling Leopards and things would get worse 24 hours later.
Bradford leapt out to a 28-19 lead quickly and left the Leopards with much to do. Answers were lacking and the Dragons continued, stretching their lead into a 49-32 lead by half time. There was a brief fight back by the visitors in the 3rd, reducing their arrears to 12 with 10 minutes to go but it wouldn’t be enough.
American Marcus Gooding was a real catalyst for the Bradford offence this weekend - Alex Daniel Photography
Coach Ogunjimi may have been hoping that taking to their own floor might have given the Leopards a boost after their game in Bradford but this one proved too much for Essex as a loss on Sunday sent the club tumbling into the D1M relegation zone.
Hitting on just 5 of their 26 attempts from deep proved to be a stat that the Leopards couldn’t overcome but the hosts did enjoy 20 points from Mike Martin on his return from injury. It wouldn’t be enough however as Hemel enjoyed contributions from across their roster including 17 from Jack Burnell as the 20-year-old came to the fore after a solid season to date. A competitive encounter after 10 minutes, the Leopards lost their way in the 2nd and dropped the period 24-6, a terminal turn of events once all was said and done.
"We played some great defence against Essex,” said a delighted Hemel Head Coach Dave Allin. “Holding a team to 24 points in a half took all the pressure off our offence. I was really pleased with a fantastic team performance. We were able to get players on the court without disrupting our momentum and everyone scored. This weekend’s performances give us confidence going into our four remaining games which will all be very tough but I'm positive that we can get the results we need to make the playoffs.”
17 apiece for Stefan Gill and Duane Morgan helped Manchester to a solid home win against Solent, who are now deadlocked in a 3-way tie for 5th, 6th and 7th place. Dropping both game on the weekend won’t have helped the Kestrels’ cause, but the Magic will be delighted to have won both of their match ups.
The stronger team for most of the game, Manchester led by 5 after 1, 9 at the half and then 11 after 3. It wasn’t until the final quarter that the visitors were able to make any dent in their deficit, but it proved to be too little, too late despite 21 points in the game from veteran Jorge Ebanks.
Leicester managed to do just enough in this one to keep their playoff hopes alive and stay away from the D1M relegation battle in equal measure. Mounting a comeback in the final quarter to force OT, the Warriors kept their nerve to seal the deal after the extra period but needed a stroke of luck to do it. With the score tied at 87-87 and with both teams resigned to a 2nd period of OT, a 3/4 court heave by Leicester miraculously found its mark and decided the game as the buzzer sounded.
Rodney Sanders was the standout for the hosts with the American dropping 27 but his side had to withstand a barrage in the 2nd quarter of this one as the Kestrels build a 46-38 lead by the half. From there on, Leicester set about reeling the visitors in before pipping them at the last. Marquis Mathis top scored for the Kestrels with 23.
The Warriors took another step towards the D1M trap door as they slipped to a close defeat in London this weekend. Up 29-17 after 1, Lituanica set their stall out early and never gave their opponents a way back into this one as the game wore on.
Mantas Adomaitis top scored with 24 and Mantas Guzys added 19 more on an afternoon where Lituanica took another positive step towards trying to make a late season push for a playoff spot. For Westminster, they are now 5 games from safety with just 6 fixtures remaining.