The early jitters are over and done with and the EBL regular season is now in full flow for the lower division teams while EBL Division 1 & 2 teams continue to work through the early stages of the knockout competitions.
There were 5 games to tell you about in the National Trophy pool 1 this weekend as the Manchester Magic took their season tally to 4 wins and 1 defeat by taking down the Medway Park Crusaders with a scoreline of 95-50.
Magic stuck to their philosophy with their youngsters gaining valuable minute off the bench while it was Nathan Schall and Tom Ward who led them to victory with handsome stat line of 16pts, 6 rebs, 3asts, 2blks and 13pts, 7rebs, 6 asts respectively. A win next weekend away at the Tees Valley Mohawks (6pm tip) will guarantee them home advantage in the next stage of the competition.
The Bradford Dragons and Worthing Thunder both had to work hard this weekend as they looked to move into contention for places in the further stages of the National Trophy.
Starting first with the Yorkshire big boys the Dragons, it was Dan Foley who was their standout scorer (as he has been so far with 22.6ppg) as he racked up 23 points on Saturday against the Manchester Magic, before another 22 fell his way on Sunday away to the Thunder.
His efforts, however, couldn’t bring about the wins that the Dragons so desperately needed to secure a Quarter Final place as they suffered close losses in both games, first going down 67-69 to the Magic, before a 76-71 loss against the Worthing Thunder. The Dragons need to win their final pool game against the leaders the Reading Rockets next weekend to place themselves firmly in the Quarter Final picture.
As already mentioned the Thunder picked up a much needed win at home to Bradford, but just the day before they had grabbed their first victory of the campaign against the Essex Leopards 80-69 (video below).
Those two wins mean that depending on results elsewhere, then the game on November 2nd at home to the Medway Park Crusaders is a must-win if they hope to have any chance of a place in the latter stages.
The other standout performance in Pool 1 came from American guard Jorge Ebanks as he scored 29 points in the Tees Valley Mohawks 70-72 win away at the Essex Leopards. Ebanks now averages 23.2ppg so far this season and will look to lead his team to a win in the Mohawks final pool game next weekend against the Manchester Magic: a win which will guarantee a place in the Quarter Finals.
Just as in Pool 1, Pool 2 laid on 5 games for our entertainment this weekend with the teams firmly focused on place in the Quarter Finals of the EBL National Trophy.
Marc Steutel’s Team Northumbria faced a very tough weekend as on Saturday they faced a long away trip to the Bristol Academy Flyers. A balanced scoring performance across the board saw them come away with a vital 64-74 victory before making the long trip home to host Leeds Carnegie the following day.
I was present at Sport Central for the 4pm tip as Matt Newby’s impressive squad arrived in the North East looking to secure a QF place. “Today will be tough,” Leeds Coach Matt Newbie said to me before the game. “Marc (Steutel) is a very good coach and always delivers.”
Despite impressive deadeye shooting from former England junior international Josh Mcginn (5/6 from the 3-point line) and another top scoring outlay of 20 points from Branimir Mikulic (21.75ppg), Carnegie couldn’t deal with Northumbria’s incredibly disciplined and well-drilled approach to the game.
It was Northumbria new signing Sean Clifford, a former Carnegie player who stuck the dagger in to his old team with 29 points in a very impressive performance.
“I really like it here (Northumbria) so far, there is a great team atmosphere and I like the way we play a lot,” Clifford said to Hoopsfix after the game. “Newcastle is a great city too – so far so good”
Coach Marc Steutel was in a very positive mood after the game adding: “That’s a great win for us! It was always going to be tough today after getting home at 4am from Bristol and I thought our guys looked tired in the 3rd.
“I felt that we showed what we were all about today and the outstanding effort of our guys with hustle plays at the end is exactly what we pride ourselves on.
“We’re delighted to have Sean (Clifford) on board and he’s come in straight away with exactly the performance we know he can give and the guys are taking to him very well. We’re a work in progress but I’m very happy with the improvements we’re making.”
Newham (NASSA) Neptunes picked up two wins this weekend to remain unbeaten in the competition with a 4-0 record. On Saturday they were dominant coming away with a 47-73 victory from the Leicester Warriors, who are yet to win a game in the competition, before taking down the Westminster Warriors 64-85 on Sunday. NASSA are now guaranteed a place in the latter stages of the competition.
The other game in Pool 2 saw the Hemel Storm host the Westminster Warriors on Saturday. An incredibly nail-biting finish saw the Warriors come away with the 81-82 victory to all but mathematically secure a place in the Quarter Finals.
As the final round of games began to be played out in the Patrons Cup, the top teams in EBL Division 2 looked to secure their places in the Semi-Finals of the competition.
In Pool 1, it was Ipswich Basketball who had a weekend to remember. They travelled to London United on Saturday without standout big men Tom Sadler and Leigh Greenan, however, this proved no problem as the D2 newcomers secured a 66-81 victory over United to remain undefeated in the competition.
Following on from this victory, Ipswich returned home to host the Derby Trailblazers on Sunday. American Forward Alex Dorr was again impressive for the Trailblazers with 20 points (24.6ppg) however, back to full strength, and with Leigh Greenan continuing to dominate with 23 points, it meant another victory went on the board for the early front runners with an 81-73 win to give them home advantage in the Semi-Finals.
It wasn’t all bad luck for Derby though, as a 74-80 overtime win the previous day, with Alex Dorr scoring 30, means that they are guaranteed a Semi-Final Place.
“Like many teams we didn’t go overboard with pre-season friendlies and instead decided to use the cup competitions to get our rhythm and figure some things out as a team, so to have won seven in a row wasn’t necessarily what we expected,” Ipswich Head Coach Nick Drane told us after the game.
“We are certainly pleased with the start we have made but are not getting carried away as we have assumed that teams have held a bit back for the regular season – but we are definitely excited to know that we can be competitive in Division Two.”
The other game in Pool 1 saw the Loughborough Student Riders pick up a 94-49 victory over London united with the Riders top 3 scorers all getting double figures in the win.
Now to Pool 2, where London Westside had a busy weekend first hosting the Killamarsh Derbyshire Arrows, with a balanced scoring effort bringing about an 80-65 victory for the home side for their first in the competition.
Sunday, however, proved not as positive as the Worcester Wolves II turned up to spoil the party with an 83-92 victory, with Dan Belgrave treating himself to an outstanding 42 points in the win.
33 points from Karolis Petkus wasn’t enough for the LSBU Brixton Topcats, who desperately needed to win their game against the Huddersfield Heat on Saturday to be in with a chance of a Semi-Final spot. After trailing for the majority of the game the Topcats put in an incredibly last quarter performance to take the game into overtime. It was, however, to no avail as with the Heat winning the overtime period 10-4, the Topcats couldn’t make the latter stages going down 95-89.
The next day, however, the Topcats picked up an 87-60 win at home the Killamarsh Derbyshire Arrows. The Heat’s Spanish pairing of Orlando Camin and Miguel Molina combined for 50 points (not for the first time) in the win and are proving a formidable duo in the Heat’s talented roster as they move forward to the Semi-Final stages.
Speaking to Hoopsfix on Sunday, Huddersfield Heat Head Coach Eduardo Perez y Medina said: “We’re really enjoying ourselves at the moment! Yesterday (vs Brixton) was a great game for us as it gave us the chance to really push ourselves and it was the first time we were made to fight for our win so far this season.
“We are a work in progress and still have a lot of work to do but I’m confident we are going to get to where we want to be. The shift to a much improved attitude in our team has been evident this year and working with such professional guys as Nick Crowder and Wesley Skaines has been a pleasure so far.”
The flow of regular league action is beginning now for Division 3 teams as things start become clearer about who is most prepared for the long campaign.
We begin first in the North where the top of the table is dominated early by two Birmingham teams. The Birmingham A’s occupy the second place spot in the Northern conference with a 2-0 record following a win over the Derby Trailblazers II by a scoreline of 49-65, while the Birmingham Mets hold the top spot with a 3-0 record after halting the charge of the new boys the Northants Thunder. The Thunder, having stormed through various higher division opponents in the cup competitions, went down 80-63 in Birmingham and will look to regain form following the loss.
Speaking to Hoopsfix, Northants Head Coach Rob Eddon said: “It was a tough loss. Following on from two great wins in the cup, this defeat has brought us back down to earth. We didn’t really stick to our game plan and they (Birmingham) were just better on the day so fair play to them.
“On a positive note it shows us exactly where our weaknesses lie and I’m happy that this has happened early on rather than down the road when we’ll hopefully be fighting for position around play-off time”
Other wins came from the Sefton Stars who impressively defeated the Tees Valley Mohawks II 101-64, while the Sheffield Sabres took down the Nottingham Hoods 67-59.
Perhaps the most impressive performance came from EBL veteran, ex-BBL Guard and ex-England International guard Jason Swaine (Hoopsfix feature to follow soon) who racked up 28 points for Leeds Carnegie, however, it was the Sheffield Saints who took home the 75-65 victory in that one.
A big game took place between two potential Championship contenders as the Stockport Falcons hosted Steven Gayle and the Rossendale Raptors. It would be a tale of coaching strategy as both set out to restrict opportunities for the opposition’s key men, as much as you possibly can do with the skill of Josh Houghton and Steven Gayle on the floor in an EBL Division 3 game.
In a back and forth game, Stockport held their own and in restricting Gayle to just 8 field goals in 32 attempts, picked up the 87-72 victory. Daniel Pilkington lead the Falcons with 29 points while Josh Houghton added 26 for the home side.
Steven Gayle, despite a poor shooting night still came home with 26 points in the loss, while averaging 35.3ppg for the first three games of the season.
In the Southern Conference, there were only four games played.
Barking Abbey hosted the Hackney White Heat (thankfully no broken backboard in warm-ups this time) hoping to add to their first win of the season the week before. Some impressive play from the young team, led by England Under-18 Dwayne Orija’s 14 points, saw them beat an older more experienced Hackney side 75-68 victory to go 2-0 for the season so far.
“I thought we played well again for large stretches today,” said Barking Abbey Head Coach Lloyd Gardner. “We have to use this game as a motivation and focus on the areas that it has highlighted for us to develop and improve throughout the season.”
National Cup giant killers Plymouth Marjon couldn’t carry on their impressive form as they were defeated 77-60 by last season’s National Shield runners-up the London Greenhouse Pioneers.
There were wins elsewhere for the London Phoenicians who brought home a 75-71 come from behind win against the Cardiff Met Archers. Phoenicians were 14 down heading into the final period but an inspired effort led by former Northumbria guard (and Hoopsfix Gaming Expert) Ian Berry’s 27 points and 5 assists saw them come out on top.
Canary Wharf London Lituanica saw their top three scorers combine for 64 of their team’s points in an 89-64 victory over Team Solent to win their first game of the season.
In the Northern Conference there were just a few games to tell you about, the most impressive of all coming as the Hull Wasps spanked the Teeside Lions 122-49 with GB U20 athlete John Stewart and Matt MaCart combining for 50 points and Jack Daley added 20 of his own in the win.
26 points from Jarryd Moss led the Leeds Tigers to an away victory over the Sefton Stars II, while EBL new boys the Kingston Panthers went 2-0 with a 66-93 over the Newcastle Eagles II. The Mersey Tigers maintain their spot at the top of the conference with a 3-0 record after a 47-80 victory over the Durham Wildcats II.
To the Midlands now where there was a resounding win for the Stockport Falcons II who defeated the Cheshire Jets 100-45, while the Warwickshire Wizards took down the Derby Trailblazers III with a 51-62 effort.
31 points from the NULC Knights’ Jones saw them pick up the 71-93 victory over the Birmingham Mets II, and the Shropshire Warriors also grabbed the away win at Loughborough Student Riders II.
The final game in the Midlands conference saw the Bromsgrove Bears defeat the Leicester Warriors II with a 71-91 scoreline.
Further down in the South East conference there were some huge individual and team performances this weekend.
Firstly the Brentwood Fire raced home with a 100-35 victory over the Medway Park Crusaders II as well as the Greenwich Titans crushing the Maidstone Warriors 36-79.
Other wins came for BC Medelynas London as they knocked off the Peckham Pride 88-47, and London Westside II defeated the Ware Rebels 62-65. Big individual performances came from College of West Anglia Fury’s Butkevicius as he scored 26 in the win against London United – Harefield Academy second team (video highlights below), while 27 points wasn’t enough for the Southend Scorpions’ Squires as they went down 91-67 to the Cambridge Cats.
Finally, in the Midlands South West Conference it was Andy St John who stood out with 26 points (27.3ppg) for the Cardiff Capitals in their 62-73 loss to the Milton Keynes Mustangs, while the Bristol Academy Flyers picked up the 76-66 win over the Hertfordshire Warriors.
It was a good weekend in Bristol as the Storm won at home against the Southampton Uni Sharks 75-62 with the Reading Rockets II also picking up the 74-86 win over the Woking Blackhawk Flyers.
A big game for Lorenzo Monticheli saw him score 25 points in Oxford Brookes Uni’s 74-86 win over the Middlesex LTBC, while Antonio Wilburn’s 27 points weren’t enough for the Swindon Shock as they lost to the Oaklands College Wolves 65-80.
Thoughts? Did you get to any games? Let us know in the comments!