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Image Courtesy | Kaitlyn Jeffreys

Team Solent Kestrels slipped to a narrow 78-84 defeat against the Derby Trailblazers in their final home game of the NBL Division 1 regular season on Saturday evening. The loss sees them slip to 11-11 in the league with the race for a playoff spot (top 8) well and truly on.

Kestrels opened the game with back to back triples from Sam Akano and Gregoire Durand but would be matched by Jonas Dieterich and a Ryan and-1 inside the opening 90 seconds. If the opening 2 minutes was at frenetic pace, the following 3 minutes was anything but with neither team able to find their scoring rhythm, Derby 7-10 to the good through the midway point of the quarter. A 9-0 to follow for the visitors saw them take the first substantial lead of the ball game at 7-17, however Kai Walker and Ricky Madison would reply to trim the game to 5. Trailblazers rallied to close the period and took a 14-23 advantage after one.

Kyron Martin came off the bench for the home town side to give his team some offensive impetus, as he scored 5 straight. Derby replied though with a 6-0 run to give them a 19-31 lead through Malcolm Smith. The sides traded baskets across the next 3 minutes as Madison and Durand provided the scoring punch for TSK whilst Raheem May-Thompson scored 10 of his own for the Trailblazers. Derby forced Coach Stanley into a timeout after they reached their biggest lead of the half to that point with 2:19 left, 29-43, Kestrels were able to reply post timeout but would find themselves trailing 35-46 at the break.

Kestrels opened the half with a quick 5 point scoring run to trim the arrears to 6 points, through Justin Bessard and Zain Poorman, however that would be short lived. A 12-1 reply from the Trailblazers saw them regain full control as Bruggeman and Dieterich found their scoring rhythm. The sides exchanged blows for the remainder of the 3rd quarter but that was much better suited to the visitors as Kestrels were unable to make any head way on the Derby lead. TSK did briefly trim the gap to 11 points through Kai Walker, however Bruggeman scored in reply to close the period, 59-72 Derby.

Kestrels would cut the gap to just 10 points inside the first 3 minutes of the 4th, which showed their intent for the final 7 minutes. Madison cut the gap further to 7 but that sparked Derby into a 6-0 run in reply, to restore their double digit advantage behind May-Thompson. The pendulum swung back in the hosts favour with just under 4 minutes to play, Bessard stroked a 3 followed by a Poorman lay up and a Martin triple, cutting the arrears to 5 at 75-80, timeout Derby. In a strange close to the game, neither team scored until 15 seconds remaining, where Trailblazers’ May-Thompson converted a dunk. Although Martin hit a 3 with 9 seconds to play, pulling Kestrels within 4 points, Dieterich iced the game from the foul line, 78-84 Derby.

TSK Head Coach Ben Stanley added, “We started the game well but then allowed Derby to really get out and play the way they want to play, getting down hill in transition and attacking the glass. I thought we responded well going into the 4th but we left ourselves too much to do at the end of the game, we needed to show our resilience much earlier to give us a shot.”

Team Solent Kestrels’ Ricky Madison had 23 points and 15 rebounds to lead all scorers, whilst Kyron Martin added 14 and Kai Walker 12. Derby Trailblazers wing Raheem May-Thompson had 21 points to lead the visitors, with Ryan Bruggeman and Jonas Dieterich adding 16 and 12 respectively.

Kestrels now face a 4 game road stand to close the regular season, starting with a match up at Nottingham Hoods next Saturday evening.

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