Division 1, Match Report

Dragons’ fire extinguished as Trailblazers make it four straight wins

Derby Trailblazers completed their third league double in as many weeks with a 104-90 road win over Bradford Dragons. The result keeps their recent momentum going and extends their winning run to four straight games, moving them up to fourth place in the NBL division one table. 

Bradford Dragons 90 (22, 41, 63)
Derby Trailblazers 104 (20, 51, 80) 

It was a polished all-round team performance from the Blazers, who were without Head Coach Matt Shaw due to illness and four bench players who were away with the division three squad, but despite this, Derby still ended the day with six players producing double-digit contributions. 

Malcolm Smith finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists while Tre Wilford missed only one shot on his way to 19 points, five steals and three assists. 

However, the stand out performer was once again Kayne King, who led the backcourt with authority, to finish with 16 points, six rebounds and eleven assists. 

The other trio of high scores came from Matt Ward-Hibbert (16 points and two rebounds), Isa Brandon (15 points, five rebounds, three steals and three assists) and Oli Stanley (thirteen points and five rebounds). 

“That was one of the best games I have ever seen Kayne play,” enthused Derby’s Performance Analyst, Jake Brown. He played selflessly and was a key part to the success of our offences, getting the ball in people’s hand at the right times.

“Malcolm and Oli produced great performances too, both shooting over 50%, meaning they were difficult to stop inside. They put up a great defensive effort to stop Bradford’s big men, forcing them out of the paint, which messed with the flow of their offences. 

“I felt Tre led the defensive intensity for the team, often leading to fast break scores. Isa also contributed to the steals, finishing with three. Our fast paced game tired them out quickly and kept the Bradford side on the back foot, due to their six man key rotation. 

“In contrast, we were able to put out a strong five with anybody on the team, meaning we were able to keep our guys energised for the majority of the game,” he said. 

The Blazers started the game well, with a basket from Stanley and three scores from Wilford helping them to an early 8-3 lead. However, Bradford levelled with a triple from Lycoudis, a steal and a lay-up from Jermayne Laing. A further 6-2 run saw the Dragons move 14-10 ahead.

The remainder of the first quarter and the early stages of the second were nip and tuck, before a 10-2 run from the Blazers which was capped off by inside and outside scores from King suddenly opened up a 40-32 advantage. 

Bradford responded to trim the deficit back to a single point with 3’18” of the first half remaining, before Ward-Hibbert converted a triple to stop their run. It was the start of an 11-2 sequence which would send Derby into the break with a useful 51-41 advantage. 

The gap remained around the ten-point mark for the first five minutes of the third quarter, but in the sixth minute, Bradford’s Laing was ejected after receiving a double technical foul. Ward-Hibbert scored both bonus shots to spark a 13-5 run which included three-pointers for Wesselingh, Ward-Hibbert and King. 

There was still time in the third for a consolation triple from Rihards Sulcs, but it meant Derby were able to take a seventeen point lead into the final quarter.

Three-pointers from Brandon and Wilford, along with a lay-up from the latter quickly gave the Blazers their biggest lead of the game at 89-65, before consecutive long range efforts from Rafi Saipe pegged the advantage back to eighteen and led to a precautionary time out from Coach Bowen. 

However, he need not have worried, as his side had already done enough to secure the victory, despite Bradford somehow managing to claw the deficit back to only fourteen points before the final buzzer sounded. 

It was a solid performance from the Trailblazers, who punished their opponents in many ways, not least by their conversion of twenty-three turnovers into twenty-five points. 

Summing up, the Trailblazers Performance Analyst Jake Brown said it was one of the best team performances he had seen from Derby all season: 

“We had six of our eight guys on double digit points. We shared the ball very well and looked to make the extra pass, making us a very difficult team to defend. 

“The guys did a very good job at recognising the scout quickly and pressuring their main guys. Having Matt, Isa and Kayne all knocking down three-point shots added the extra dimension to our offence that we truly needed,” he said.

Bradford: Sulcs 26, Saipe 19, Fetske 15, Laing 12, Lycoudis 8, Armstrong 5, Fullah 5, Calvo 0, Harris 0.

Derby: Smith 19, Wilford 19, King 16, Ward-Hibbert 16, Brandon 15, Stanley 13, Arogbo 3, Wesselingh 3.

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