Trailblazers can't take next step as they slip to double defeat again
NEAR misses and noble efforts only get you so far and Derby Trailblazers again fell short of a morale-boosting victory as they took on two of the better sides in VCARS Division One at the weekend.
Despite the return of American Nick Rose from an ankle injury picked up at Westminster a week earlier, Derby were beaten 83-76 at home by Bristol Academy Flyers and went down 78-70 away to Team Northumbria the following day.
Martyn Gayle twice cut the gap to three points inside the last 90 seconds as Trailblazers pushed Bristol particularly close.
But they left themselves too much to do in a couple of poor spells, early in the second quarter and again late in the third period.
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Kingsley Okoroh, back after missing the previous week's match to go on an England training camp, scored six early points to set his side off to a good start but the Flyers edged an 18-17 lead by the end of the first.
Bristol then scored the first six points of the second and went on to dominate the period, a trio of three-pointers helped them ease to an eight-point advantage by half-time.
A three from Mostapha Alfaki stretched their lead to 47-34 but Derby worked hard to trim the gap, baskets from Gayle, Okoroh, Rose and Eric Milambo making it 51-45.
However, a three-point play and a buzzer-beating triple from Fran Roubles sent Flyers into the final break protecting a 63-49 lead.
Derby had saved their best until the last quarter.
Simon Allaway opened the scoring with a three-pointer to spark an 11-6 run that kept Derby in the contest and when Gayle set up Milambo for an easy score, the gap was cut to five points.
Greg Streete's triple was then cancelled out by Rose and a steal by Gayle led to another two points for the Derby captain.
Gayle hit a huge three-pointer to make it 79-76 with 18 seconds remaining but they had to foul and Bristol made their free shots to claim the win.
With neither Milambo nor Tom Brown available for the trip to Northumbria, Okoroh was Trailblazers' only player over 6ft 3ins and had to play 39 minutes but finished with eight points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Rose led the scorers with 27 points, an impressive second half bringing him 17 of those points. He shot seven of 10 three-pointers and helped out with seven rebounds.
Gayle added 14 points but was not allowed as many decent looks as he would normally have expected.
Derby were down by nine points at the end of both the first and second quarters but pulled that back to 54-47 by the end of the third.
The final quarter turned out to be a real roller coaster. Northumbria stretched their advantage to 61-47, before the Trailblazers produced their best run of the game to tie the scores at 61-61 only for an 11-0 for the home side to effectively kill the game.
Derby are at home to Brixton on Saturday (7.30pm) and away to Essex Leopards on Sunday (4pm).
DERBY 76 BRISTOL 83
Derby: Gayle 21, Rose 17, Okoroh 10, Allaway 9, Milambo 8, Daykin 6, Arogbo 3, McGaffin 2, Baker 0, Brown 0.
Bristol: Roubles 23, McLaughlin-Williams 19, Garcia 16, Streete 15, Alfaki 6, Ranklin 2, Watson 2, Owen 0.
NORTHUMBRIA 78 DERBY 70
Northumbria: (leading scorers) Wiser 19, Washington 12, Thompson 12.
Derby: Rose 27, Gayle 14, Okoroh 8, Allaway 7, McGaffin 6, Baker 4, Daykin 3, Arogbo 1.