Division 1, Match Report

Trailblazers defence helps grind out victory over Team Newcastle

Matt Shaw - Derby Trailblazers

Derby Trailblazers maintained their solid start to the 2018/19 season with an 87-81 away win over Team Newcastle, thanks to an 8-2 run over the final three minutes.

Team Newcastle 81 (21, 43, 64)
Derby Trailblazers 87 (22, 46, 68)

Although the Trailblazers were ahead for the majority of the game, it felt like a roller coaster ride at times, with eight changes of lead and five tied score situations, the last of which came at 79-all with 3’07” remaining.

As a team, Derby took care of the ball particularly well, with just eight turnovers compared to Newcastle’s 17 and they netted 17 points as a direct result, something which drew high praise from Head Coach Matt Shaw:

“Having only eight turnovers was a key stat for us and really helped us get the job done. Newcastle have a largely new squad this year and I think they’ll pick up a lot of wins once they’ve got used to each other and the league.

“To win on the road up there when we were short on bodies due to injuries once again was a really good result for us,” he said.

Malcolm Smith led Derby with 25 points and eight rebounds, Tre Wilford had 19 points, 13 rebounds and six steals, Matt Ward-Hibbert added nine points, while Academy scholar Luke Ptak came off the bench to contribute eleven points and Kayne King dished off nine assists to go with his six points.

Derby got off to a good start, with four points each from Ward-Hibbert and Smith, as they opened up an 8-2 lead, but the hosts fought back and tied the scores at 12-12 by the mid-point of the first quarter.

Newcastle then took the lead for the first time, as Eric Stafford converted a pair of shots from the line. The lead then switched several times before back to back scores from Ptak and Smith helped Derby to end the first quarter with the narrowest of leads, at 22-21.

Their advantage was short lived, as veteran guard Mark Elderkin opened the second period with a three-pointer via an assist from American guard Eric Stafford. After an inside score from Smith, Elderkin then fed Stafford for a triple to give Newcastle a 27-24 lead.

A basket from Smith was followed up by yet another three-pointer for the home side, with Victor Fuentes on target via another Elderkin assist.

Four straight points from Smith and a jump shot from Ward-Hibbert helped Derby tie the scores at 30-all with 6’18” on the clock, only for David Hanson to sink another long-range shot.

However, baskets for Wilford and King were followed by a three-pointer from Wesselingh before a visit to the free-throw line produced one of two for Wilford as the Trailblazers opened up a 38-33 lead.

Newcastle then capped a 7-2 run with another three-pointer from Hanson tying the game at 40-40 as the game remained tense, but a floating jump shot from Benson Arogbo took the score to 46-43 going into the break.

Derby had arguably their best spell of the game in the early part of the third quarter. A three point play from Ward-Hibbert doubled their lead. Subsequently, when Wilford converted a pair of free-throws and then fed Smith for a lay-up, the Trailblazers opened up what would be their biggest lead of the night, at 57-47 with 6’54” on the clock.

However, Newcastle were not in the mood for giving up and baskets from Ben Seipt, Hanson and Elderkin got them right back into the game. The gap remained around four to six points over the next few minutes, until Ptak converted a three-pointer from the corner off a Wilford assist to make it 65-57.

Newcastle responded with another triple from Onyekachi Nzerem before Ptak converted from inside. Hanson then completed the quarter with one of two at the line and a three-pointer after Alei Wol grabbed the offensive rebound and provided the assist.

That took the score to 67-64 going into the final quarter and once again it was Derby who scored first through Ward-Hibbert. However, back to back scores from Tosan Evbuomwan cut the gap to just a single point, before King drove inside to make it 71-68 with 7’23” remaining.

A three-point play from Evbuomwan then tied the scores, only for Wilford to reply in kind. Stafford then struck from downtown to make it 74-all. Ptak edged Derby back in front, only for Elderkin to strike from long range to put the home side ahead by one.

Both sides missed multiple attempts in the next couple of minutes, but a Blazers time-out with 3’54” remaining got Derby focussed on what was necessary. Wilford and Stafford exchanged scores before the Trailblazers embarked on the run which won them the game.

Smith made three of four at the line before baskets from Wilford and Smith and another pair from Ward-Hibbert made the result safe as the Trailblazers stepped up defensively to deny Newcastle anything but a consolation score for Evbuomwan.

Summing up, Coach Shaw paid tribute to the strong defence his players produced in those closing stages:

“Defensively, I thought we did a good job at key moments. In the last few minutes, we really tuned in and got some crucial stops. Kayne did a great job against Stafford and Jake Wesselingh had some big rebounds down the stretch.

“Luke Ptak was excellent off the bench too. I was pleased with his offensive contribution but I also thought he defended really well too,” he said.

The Trailblazers return to action on Saturday, when they play host to Bradford Dragons at the Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre (7:15pm). Both sides are currently unbeaten in league play.


Newcastle: Hanson 19, Stafford 15, Seipt 13, Evbuomwan 12, Nzerem 9, Elderkin 8, Fuentes 3, Wol 2, Hogg DNP, Obuobie DNP, Owen DNP.

Derby: Smith 25, Ward-Hibbert 19, Wilford 19,  Ptak 11, King 6, Wesselingh 5, Arogbo 2, Brown 0, Piplica 0.



Saturday 20th October 2018:

D1 Men: Team Newcastle 81 – 87 Derby Trailblazers

D2 Women: Worcester Wolves 65 – 66 Derby Trailblazers

D3 Men: Team Birmingham Elite 94 – 98 Derby Trailblazers

U16 Boys Prem: Derby Trailblazers 23 – Manchester Magic 114

U16 Girls Prem: Derby Trailblazers 97 – 55 Ipswich

U14 Boys Prem: Derby Trailblazers 78 – 71 Newcastle Eagles


Sunday 21st October 2018:

D3 Men Shield: Derby Trailblazers II 73 – 96 City of Birmingham Rockets

U18 Men EM: Derby Trailblazers II 96 – 71 Rutland Thunders

U16 Men EM: Derby Trailblazers II 46 – 67 Rutland Thunders

U14 Girls: Manchester Mystics 100 – 23 Derby Trailblazers

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