Rockets have chance to go joint top, Leopards appoint new Head Coach

With current leaders Team Northumbria taking a break from D1M action, Reading face 2 games this weekend and winning both would take their record to 20-3 on the season. That tally of 40 points would put them on level pegging with their North East rivals as both sides look forward to their final 3 games of the season. We do have 8 other D1M games to cover and with news that Essex have released Head Coach Steve Ogunjimi in the hopes that a change will spark a turnaround in their fortunes, we have a lot to cover. We’ll also 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.

Reading Rockets (18-3) v Worthing Thunder (6-16)

The Rockets start their weekend hosting a Worthing Thunder side with renewed optimism for their chances of escaping the D1M relegation fight. Last weekend’s win on the South Coast over Derby was a massive boost for the club but an away day in Reading is a tougher proposition. With Reading Coach Manuel Peña Garcés calling for an improvement in his side’s defensive effort, that doesn’t bode well for a Worthing side that hasn’t topped 70 points in any of their last 5 games, “[Last weekend] We gave up 75 points and for me that is too much so this week we will need to address this and continue to work on the really good defence we played, especially in the second quarter of the game.

Previous meeting – Worthing Thunder 70 v 84 Reading Rockets

Reading and Worthing had a good game last time out with the Rockets coming out on top 84-70 that day - Kyle Hemsley

London Lituanica (9-11) v Reading Rockets (18-3)

Sunday presents Reading with a trip to the capital to face Lituanica. The London club won last time out with an 87-77 victory over Westminster, but preceded that game with 5 straight losses that have left the team in danger of missing the playoffs. One of those defeats 2 weeks ago was against this weekend’s opponents Reading, so the chances of Lituanica pulling off a win in this one appear slim. Still, Peña Garcés isn’t taking their opponent lightly, “Lituanica recorded their first win since the National Trophy final [last weekend] and are a very tough opponent at home - we have seen this with their victory over Northumbria in January so we know that whilst we are on our run, we are the team to beat, we have to put care and attention in to both games, one at a time, before thinking about next weekend.

Previous meeting – Reading Rockets 105 v 69 London Lituanica

Manchester Magic (17-4) v Bradford Dragons (12-10)

The Magic will need Team Northumbria and Reading to drop a game or two between now and the end of the season if they are going to retain their title, but it could happen and Manchester should try to put as much pressure on their rivals whenever possible. With 2 games this weekend, that starts here as the Magic can move to within 2 points of the leaders come Monday morning. A matchup with Bradford promises to be a stiff test but the Magic have overcome the Dragons twice this season, once in D1M and once in the Trophy. Bradford are scrapping hard for playoff seeding so this one should be a highly competitive encounter.

Previous meeting – Bradford Dragons 79 v 86 Manchester Magic

Manchester Magic (17-4) v Lancashire Spinners (6-14)

Back to back home games for the Magic should increase their chances of a successful weekend as they host Lancashire on Sunday. Embroiled in a relegation scrap, the Spinners did pick up a valuable road win vs Derby a few weeks ago and will be going all out here to do the same. Shock winners when the sides met in November, Lancashire would love a repeat of that game here to boost their chances of D1M survival. That said, Manchester have won 7 of their last 8 and are one of the most consistent sides in the division. Don’t hold out for an upset in this one unless Manchester fall off their game, or get knocked off it.

Previous meeting - Lancashire Spinners 69 v 65 Manchester Magic

Westminster Warriors (1-19) v Lancashire Spinners (6-14)

With last Thursday’s potential tie against Lituanica being postponed, Westminster are still alive in D1M. A loss here would be curtains for the side though and confirm their relegation. If the Warriors are going to stage a miraculous comeback, Saturday’s home tie with Lancashire is a good place to start. 1-5 in their last 6 road games, the Spinners haven’t been great on their travels recently but last time out they did beat the Trailblazers in Derby. Can Westminster keep the dream alive for another week?

Previous meeting – Lancashire Spinners 95 v 86 Westminster Warriors

Westminster Warriors (1-19) v Derby Trailblazers (13-7)

It’s a tough fixture on Sunday for the Warriors as well, welcoming a Trailblazers team to town that are pushing hard to secure 4th place in the table. 90-79 winners when the sides met back in October, Derby will be confident of success in this one but need to make sure they don’t repeat the same mistakes that led to their recent losses to Lancashire and Worthing. Regardless of the fact that Westminster’s fate may be sealed before the tip of this game, Derby can’t afford to let their guard down, “Despite their league record, it’s easy to forget how far they pushed teams in and around our position in the league,” said Derby’s Assistant Coach/Performance Analyst Michael Hanson-Morris. They’ve played against teams like Solent and Loughborough at home and when we played them at The Wigg in October, we saw first-hand that if we become even slightly complacent, they are capable of springing a surprise.

Previous meeting – Derby Trailblazers 90 v 79 Westminster Warriors

Brian Amabilino-Perez has been a solid player for Derby this season despite his young age - David Amabilino

Derby Trailblazers (13-7) v Hemel Storm (10-12)

Before Derby can turn their attention to a trip to London on Sunday, they have a tough home encounter with an in form Hemel side trying to keep hold of a playoff place. 7-4 since the turn of the year, that uptick in form has allowed the Storm to get the necks in front in the race for 8th position and they don’t intend to let up now. Hanson-Morris is more than aware of the threat that Hemel pose and was complimentary of their current efforts, “Hemel have got stronger as the season goes on especially after their January signings of Simon Kearney and American Khapri Alston have proved to be a big turning point in their season. They have a wealth of experience in their line-up and are playing some of the best offensive basketball in the league at the moment. Playing with a really good pace and average 85ppg (3rd in league), they also have one the best offensive rebounding groups in the league.” Knowing your opponent and dealing with them are 2 different things but Derby will be hopeful they can get the 2 points in this one.

Previous meeting – 1st game this season

Team Solent Kestrels (12-9) v London Lituanica (9-11)

After a double loss weekend last time out, the Kestrels need to get their season back on course asap if they are going to make a run at Derby and claim 4th place. Looking up rather than down will probably serve Solent well right now as they’re tied on points with Bradford and Loughborough below them but with a game in hand, they need to make that count. Wildcard Lituanica could throw anything at the Kestrels in this one and the former D2M champions will need to be on their toes regardless.

Previous meeting – London Lituanica 72 v 79 Team Solent Kestrels

Essex Leopards (5-17) v Leicester Warriors (8-14)

With 4 games remaining to secure their D1M status, Essex have elected to relieve Head Coach Steve Ogunjimi from his duties, turning to 26-year-old Thomas Baker in the hope that the former Oaklands Academy man can turn the situation around. It won’t be easy though and with the news that Darrell Bethune will join Alex Scotland-Williamson on the treatment table for the remainder of the campaign, the Leopards are struggling for confidence and Baker will have it all to do. For Leicester, their exciting OT win last weekend can be a great springboard for success in the club’s last 4 games. With a strong chance at still making the playoffs, the Warriors have plenty to play for.

Previous meeting – Leicester Warriors 85 v 71 Essex Leopards

Steve Ogunjimi led Essex to a 5-17 record in D1M this season - Essex Leopards

Worthing Thunder (6-16) v Team Solent Kestrels (12-9)

Worthing’s away day in Reading on Saturday might be a difficult fixture, but a win here is more attainable. Each of Worthing’s last 4 victories have come on their own court, so a route to their D1M survival more than likely involves making a stand at home. They managed it last weekend against Derby, can they do it against Solent? Worthing Head Coach Daniel Hildreth certainly thinks so, “We will be ready for them as we have pushed Solent very close even with our team plagued by injuries and players playing with knocks. We are hopefully at full strength and we will compete with them all the way.

Previous meeting – Team Solent Kestrels 80 v 69 Worthing Thunder