- National Teams
The National Basketball League (NBL) action for the 2015-16 season got underway this weekend with a number of games from various cup competitions.
The top story saw defending champions Manchester Magic beaten by local rivals Lancashire Spinners in the North Group of the National Trophy. The newcomers to Division 1 were led by England under-18 international, Alex Roberts, who top scored with 20 points to help his new team come away with the road victory.
Head Coach, Neal Hopkins, who was optimistic his side would be competitive this season, spoke of his delight to get the win: “It was a great, great win against a very good and well-coached team,” he said via the club’s website. “We came out of the box really and defence was key to our success in the first quarter.”
Spinners also gave competitive debuts to former Manchester Giants duo Connor Murtagh and veteran Mike Bernard, whose experience will be invaluable for the younger contingent of the squad. As for the Magic, they started their campaign without the services of star American Ellis Cooper, and were led by Simon Anumba, who finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Derby Trailblazers made a positive start to their Trophy campaign after they picked up an 80-73 win at home against Tees Valley Mohawks. David Watts, another to join D1 from BBL’s Manchester Giants, led the way with 30 points and 12 rebounds, while brother Dan Watts was one dime shy of a triple-double after an impressive 11-13-9 stat-line.
The final game in the North Group saw Team Northumbria open with a convincing 90-68 home win over Leicester Warriors. Carl Pearson scored a game-high 20 points for the visitors but they were outscored in every quarter in defeat. Jack Preston had 16 points for the home side, while Lewis Champion added 14 and Siman Stewart double-doubled with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
“It was a decent start for us, but still a long way to go,” said Northumbria Head Coach Marc Steutel. “I thought we tried to do the things we have discussed in pre-season which was pleasing.
“I think we have a very hard-working and committed group and I’m excited to see how much we can improve over the course of the season and hope to be as competitive as we can.”
South Group action saw Westminster Warriors rally from a 17-point deficit under the guidance of new Head Coach Julius Joseph, to defeat Worthing Thunder 91-86. Tom Ward was unable to guide Thunder to victory with 25 points on his return as Jon J Johnson and Abraham Ekperuoh – fresh out of Crandall University in Canada – scored 21 points apiece in the victory. The other game that was set to be played between promoted London Lituanica and Reading Rockets was postponed.
In the Patrons Cup, last season’s third placed side in Division 2, Ipswich, came away from newly-promoted Nottingham Hoods with an 87-70 victory in Pool 2. Sam Newman, who was set to begin his college career at LA , recorded a game-high 25 points for the visitors while pro centre Leigh Greenan added a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Ugandan international Josh Johnson dished out 11 assists and there was also a debut for former England international Taner Adu.
“This was a solid start for us,” commented Ipswich Head Coach Nick Drane. “Of course, I’m not going to be satisfied at this stage of the season – the first five minutes of the second quarter were very poor defensively and the final five minutes of the game we switched off and didn’t do the things that put us in the position to win the game.” Said Ipswich Head Coach Nick Drane.
Elsewhere, in Pool 1, London Greenhouse Pioneers claimed a 95-81 win at home to East London All Stars while Solent Kestrels completed a 60-50 win on the road at Brixton Topcats, in Pool 4.
The National Cup began with two Preliminary Round fixtures that featured four new teams that play in the National Basketball Development Leagues (NBDL) this season.
Calderdale Explorers’ first game ended in defeat as Niel Gillard poured in 35 points to lead the University of Chester to an 81-60 success on their travels to book a First Round clash at Lancashire Spinners.
The second game, on Sunday, saw Southwark Pride earn a First Round home tie against reigning D1 league champions Essex Leopards after they saw off the challenge of London-Lewisham Thunder 68-60.
Main image: David Watts/Alan Mousley
Second image: Leigh Greenan/Pavel Kricka