Northants Thunder suffered a surprisingly heavy 117-68 defeat at Team Derby in Men’s National League Division Four Midlands Conference.
With the table very tight, this top of the table clash was almost certainly going to be decisive in deciding which team would advance to the end-of-season play-offs.
Both teams went into the game picking up wins the previous week and a close game was expected - so the 49-point hammering came as a bit of a shock to Thunder.
Thunder made a good start to the game and scores from Jacob Holt, Sam Mennell and the Yates brothers, Johnny and Matt, saw them ease into a 10-6 lead.
But the next few minutes were to prove decisive.
Derby scored off a back-door cut, Thunder missed three lay ups after breaking the derby press and then back-up guard Tom Higgins picked up an ankle injury and had to withdraw from the game.
These events seemed to affect Thunder’s concentration and from 14-13 up they found themselves trailing 33-21 at the end of the first quarter.
Needing a good start to the second period, Thunder were hit by a 12-point Derby blitz to trail 45-21 and to all intents and purposes it was game over.
Thunder were finding it very difficult to match up against their opponents and a switch to a zone defence didn’t improve matters with the home side draining six three-pointers in the second quarter as they took a 68-34 lead into the half-time break.
Matters didn’t get any better in the third period as Derby extended their lead by a further 18 points but there was a little consolation for Thunder as they edged the final quarter 21-18, finally losing 117-68.
Matt Yates top scored with 22 points, with support coming from Holt and Johnny Yates with 13 and 14 respectively, while Richard Higgins battled hard for his 10 points.
The loss means Thunder have now lost four games to Derby’s three and all they can do now is win their remaining fixtures and hope Derby or Trailblazers II slip up.
Under 16 Boys National League Midlands Conference
Team Birmingham Elite 86 Northants Thunder 46
THE Northants Under 16 Boys travelled to Birmingham to take on the Elite with just one genuine big man, and missing leading scorer Connor White.
The short-handed squad battled hard for three quarters of the game and going into the last period of play trailed by a respectable 30 points.
They were then hit by an aggressive zone press and went to pieces throwing speculative passes and trying to dribble out of trouble, losing the period 22-12.
Throughout the game Thunder found scoring difficult and with little inside presence, they were restricted to fast break offences and perimeter shooting.
Rookie Ashley Kitchen top scored with 18 points, which included five three-pointers, Patrick Adeji supported well with 13 points but no other Northants player could get into double figures, although Tom McLeod rebounded well.
Under 16 Girls National League North Conference
Stockport Lapwings 63 Northants Lightning 51
After the long journey to the north west the Under 16 Girls left their game on the bus and failed to score for the first six minutes of the game.
In the entire first quarter they only managed six points with home team Stockport netting 17.
Looking at the final score, that 11-point margin was to prove decisive because Lightning were competitive for the other three periods of play, losing the second and third quarters by narrow margins and winning the fourth 18-11.
For Lightning, Dina Kosnikovska scored 22 points which included four three-pointers with Poppy Barnett and Lucy Needham supporting well with 13 and 12 respectively.
Coach Janis Kosnikovski pronounced himself proud of his team’s efforts. but he was disappointed that on the number of occasions they had created scoring opportunities after good ball movement only to miss the final shot.
Saturday, February 24
9.30-11am: Junior Ballers sessions
11.30am: Under 14 Boys versus Bristol Flyers; Under 16 Girls versus NEBC Titans
2pm: Under 16 Boys versus Stoke Knights
4pm: Junior Men v Frankley Falcons
6pm: Senior Men versus University of Nottingham
All these games will be staged at the Northants Basketball Centre which is based at Northampton School for Girls in Spinney Hill Road, Northampton. Spectators are welcome and admission is FREE
11.30am-3pm: Under 15 Boys Central Venue League Northampton School for Boys
2.30pm-5pm Under 11 CVL at Northampton School for Boys
Sunday, February 25
Midday: Under 16 Boys versus City of Birmingham Rockets II
Hamilton and Evans lead the way for Titans
Northamptonshire Titans travelled to Lancashire Spinners with a depleted squad and the young players being set the task of maintaining their unbeaten record in the Under-16 Girls North Conference.
And they did it in style with a 64-27 win.
Titans started strongly with senior players Hannah Bird and Kenny Hamilton dictating play.
Bird opened the scoring and Titans’ defence held strong as they kept Spinners to only two points in the first quarter.
Captain Hamilton led by example, driving hard to basket and communicating well on court and Titans continued to perform well with India Evans scoring well and all players making the scoresheet by the half as they opened up a 40-6 advantage.
Titans’ concentration slipped in the third and Spinners went on an 11-0 scoring run but the visitors got back on track to wrap up a comfortable victory.
Titans’ top scorers were Hamilton with 18, Evans (17), Bird (11) and Lee (10).
Titans women were up against Ipswich in Division Two and suffered a 92-56 defeat to a team with no fewer than seven Great Britain players on their roster. Titans’ combination defence struggled to contain Ipswich in the first half, however Paige Vyse exploited the gaps to score six of the the eight Titans points. The game was out of sight by half-time but Titans showed their resolve and managed to stay with the leaders throughout the final quarter.
Vyse top scored with 12, while Georgia Collins scored 10.
This weekend sees Titans continuing their quest to win the U14 Boys Midlands West Conference League with a home game against Worcester Bears at Weavers Leisure Centre in Wellingborough on Saturday (3.30pm).
The women have two fixtures as they travel to Worcester Wolves before hosting Mansfield Giants, while the U16 girls go to Northants Lightning.