Gayle blows hot again but Blazers wilt in late stages after Rose blow
ANOTHER injury worry was all Derby Trailblazers took from their VCARS Division One trip to Westminster Warriors, despite another outstanding shooting night from Martyn Gayle.
Though they went into the fourth quarter leading by seven points and were still level with two and a half minutes to go, Derby were beaten 81-75 by one of their closest rivals in the scramble just outside the play-off places.
An 11-5 scoring run finally sent Trailblazers to a heartbreaking defeat but perhaps the writing was on the wall when Nick Rose limped out of the game halfway through the second quarter.
The American guard twisted his left ankle when he hit a jump shot to move on to 10 points and landed on an opponent's foot.
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That basket, with 4:50 to go to half-time, put Derby 38-27 ahead. Rose had also gathered four rebounds and dished off three assists and coach Jamie Maudsley could scarcely afford to lose another player.
Already missing long-term injury victims Tom Sherlock and Miguel Leite, Derby travelled without the unavailable Stedroy Baker and Jeff Smith and lost Kingsley Okoroh to an international training camp.
Rose's injury left Trailblazers down to seven players, two of whom were already in early foul trouble.
Despite all that, they looked good for a precious win for much of the contest, with Gayle shooting the ball exceptionally well in the first quarter.
He missed only one shot as he surged to 14 points, which included four three-pointers. The guard finished with 36 points and is averaging 30 per game from his side's last four league fixtures.
A basket from Benson Arogbo opened the second quarter and gave Derby an 11-point advantage.
After Rose's injury, Derby stayed in control initially, with Luke Daykin sinking successive shots to restore the 11-point lead. Three more points from Gayle sent Trailblazers into the interval ahead by 45-36.
After the break, Westminster began to make their size advantage a much bigger factor. Jonathan Johnson and Yannick Bulambwe dominated in the paint against Eric Milambo, Tom Brown and Arogbo, with the Derby trio often finding the only way to stop them was to foul.
Jamie McGaffin, playing extended minutes in the absence of Rose and Baker, also hit foul trouble, while Gayle found himself much more tightly marked.
Westminster tied the scores at 56-56 two minutes before the end of the third but Gayle responded with a jump shot, two free-throws and an assist, from which Brown scored.
Brown's put-back gave Derby a 64-57 lead going into the final 10 minutes and they still looked good for victory but Leon Bennett-Harris and Bulambwe tied the scores at 64-64 two minutes into the period and Johnson put the home side ahead.
Derby squandered their next three chances to score by turning the ball over but Gayle hit four free-throws to nudge his side ahead again.
Simon Allaway, who converted only two of 14 three-point attempts, made one at 70-70 with two and a half minutes remaining but as Brown and Arogbo fouled out, Westminster took advantage.
Derby return to Moorways to take on Bristol Flyers on Saturday (7.30pm).
WESTMINSTER: Johnson 22, Bennett-Harris 21, Bulambwe 21, Addy 6, Hitchman 6, Ashley 4, Lartey 1, Oyelese 0.
DERBY: Gayle 36, Rose 10, McGaffin 7, Brown 6, Allaway 4, Arogbo 4, Daykin 4, Milambo 4.