Division 1, Match Report

Trailblazers unable to complete league double over high flying Rockets

Derby Trailblazers A poor third quarter came between Derby Trailblazers and the rare chance of completing a league double over Reading Rockets, something the Trailblazers have only achieved once. However, after completing a 94-84 away over the Rockets in the opening fixture of the season, the opportunity was there for the taking, but Derby failed to capitalise upon it. 

Derby Trailblazers 74 (18, 39, 53)
Reading Rockets 87 (24, 37, 71) 

After a decent first half, the Trailblazers took a two point advantage into the third quarter, but were outscored 34-14 over the ten minute period, effectively ending their hopes of completing the league double. 

“It was another frustrating result for us, but credit to Reading, because I thought they played very well, especially the American pair of AJ Carr and Trae Pemberton,” admitted the Trailblazers Head Coach Matt Shaw. 

“We didn’t do a great job on the glass which was costly for us, as it resulted in them having too many second chance points and we also struggled to get anything in transition so we really had to work hard to get our scores.

“The result leaves us 7-7 and down to seventh in the league and it means we have a lot of work to do in the coming days and weeks to get ourselves back on track,” he said.

A look at the statistics backs up a lot of what Shaw was alluding to. Reading scored nineteen points off fast breaks compared to Derby’s nine. They won the battle on the boards 48-41 and they netted 21 second chance points compared to the Blazers eleven. 

Their American pair both completed double-doubles, with Pemberton finishing with 28 points and eleven rebounds while Carr added 26 and eleven. Former Derby fan favourite Sydney Donaldson scored ten, adding seven rebounds, three steals and two assists. 

For Derby, Malcolm Smith led the way with 22 points and seven rebounds, Tre Wilford bagged a double-double of 17 points and eleven rebounds, while Jake Wesselingh converted four of seven long range shots on his way to sixteen points. 

But aside from those three players, Derby had little to offer on offence. Starters Benson Arogbo, Kayne King and Oli Stanley combined for just ten points, while Matt Ward-Hibbert could only contribute two points off the bench. 

Derby had started brightly, leading 7-4 after Smith completed an early three-point play, but Reading were back in front at 10-9 after only four minutes. 

Rockets briefly stretched their advantage to as many as five points, before consecutive scores from Wilford and Smith tied the game at 18-all with 2’24” remaining. However Derby were held scoreless for the remainder of the period, while Reading added consecutive scores from Pemberton and a basket from Emeka-Anyakwo to take a six point lead into the first break. 

The two sides exchanged baskets over the opening few minutes of the second, before six straight points from Smith took the score to 29-28 and prompted a Reading time-out. A barren spell for both sides was eventually halted by a three-pointer from Pemberton, before a score from Wilford and a triple from Wesselingh put the Blazers 33-32 ahead. 

A free-throw from King and a second three-point from Wesselingh stretched the lead to five points but Rockets replied with a triple from Pemberton which just beat the shot clock. But despite that, a pair of free-throws from Charlie Brown ahead of a score from Carr ensured Derby took a 39-37 lead into the locker rooms. 

A basket from Wilford and a triple from Arogbo stretched the Blazers lead to 44-48 early in the third, but that was the cue for the Rockets to step up a gear. Pemberton nailed another buzzer beating triple to spark a 14-3 run which would transform the game. 

Wilford eventually halted the run with one of two at the line, but Reading’s onslaught was far from over. Baskets from Carr, O’Sullivan and yet another buzzer beating outside shot from Pemberton stretched their lead to 59-48 with 3’45” on the clock. 

A three-point play from Wilford followed, before the Rockets closed the period with another 12-2 burst to take an unassailable 71-53 advantage into the final quarter. 

Derby cut the gap back to twelve points on three separate occasions, but they could get no closer, despite some good shooting from Wesselingh, who converted a pair of three-pointers and two out of three from the line when he was fouled to prevent another long range shot.

Derby: Smith 22, Wilford 17,  Wesselingh 11, Arogbo 4, King 4, Ptak 3, Bowman 2, Brown 2, Stanley 2, Ward-Hibbert 2, Lue 0

Reading: Pemberton 28, Carr 26, A. O’Sullivan 13, Donaldson 10, Emeka-Anyakwo 7, Chive 3, Jolley 0, Nosa 0, Obediah 0, Grant DNP, R. O’Sullivan DNP. 

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