The McDonald’s Nottingham Hoods finished their regular season campaign undefeated at home, thanks to a thrilling 76-73 victory over local rivals Derby Trailblazers.
This was a humdinger of a night, not only was it a great game of basketball but the Hoods put on a real show for their sell-out crowd of Merry Men, with Nottingham’s very own Robin Hood and the Nottingham Angels Cheerleading squad performing throughout.
This game was always going to be tense affair; Hoods having already secured second place in the league but still vying for promotion, and Trailblazers who have been in a top four spot all season but who needed to win this game to secure a play-off berth.
As the teams were led out onto the court in front of the VIP’s by Robin Hood, there was great news from the locker room with Captain Apostolidis back in the team after missing last week’s crunch game with Liverpool with flu. The game couldn’t have started better for the Hoods as they raced into a 12-2 lead after just three minutes, led by exceptional inside work from Danny Wong. Lucasz Siczek and Alvaro Urbistondo continued their recent good form as the Hoods went into the first break up 26-13, much to the delight of the partisan crowd.
With every basket being cheered by the crowd and the cheerleaders leading the chanting, it became difficult to hear the whistle as the Hoods consolidated their lead. A change in defence from Trailblazers stopped the fast breaks and limited American Evan Carberry inside. Impressive long range shooting from Derby kept them in the game, but the Hoods were in complete control leading 44-33 at halftime.
The locker room talk talk from coach Phil Waghorn sparked Hoods back into life in the third quarter as they went on an offensive tear. Ryan Westley, Liam Kelly, Ben Stanley, Troy Thompson, Kieran Wright and local Nova player Matthew Parker saw the Hoods surge into an impressive lead. Stanley and Wright hit huge threes that nearly brought the house down as the noise level erupted. Former Hoods player Owusu-Ansah was trying to keep his team in the hunt but at the end of the third, the Hoods had a seemingly unassailable lead 66-44.
As the home crowd started prematurely celebrating, Trailblazers started clawing their way back into the game. The final 10 minutes of regular season basketball was almost disastrous as the Hoods got into early foul trouble, reaching the limit in just 3 minutes, ensuring Derby could earn some cheap points from the foul line. Trailblazers were hitting everything and had halved the lead by midway through the quarter on a 3-17 run and they were brimming with confidence as the Hoods struggled to find a basket. Uncharacteristic turnovers and shot-clock violations piled the pressure on the home side as Trailblazers took full advantage. Coach Waghorn put out his strongest 5 to try and steady the ship but momentum was with Trailblazers and the crowd could not believe what they were seeing. With just one minute of the regular season remaining, a huge three-pointer from Trailblazers, bought them within three points 71-68. Great play from Wong led to a foul and the crowd fell silent as the first shot swung rolled around the rim for what seemed like an eternity before missing, but he calmly sank the second 72-68. Another big three from Trailblazers made it a one-point game, but with the game clock running down, they had to foul, sending Wright to the line with 10 seconds to go. He calmly sank both before Trailblazers flew to the basket to bring the game back to a single point. With 1.3 seconds remaining, Trailblazers had to foul again and this time it was the ice-man Carberry who sank both shots to ensure a 3-point lead. Trailblazers managed to get a shot off, but it was way short as the Hoods held on for a 76-73 victory and the crowd erupted.
Club Captain Bruce Lauder commented, “What a way to finish the regular season and what a game. Last year these two teams were fighting at the bottom of the table and now we are fighting at the top. Having held on against immense pressure will give us huge confidence and belief going into the play-offs in a couple of weeks. Personally, it was great to see local player Danny Wong have a match winning performance. Danny started playing at school, where my wife coached him actually, and has worked his way up through the local league ranks to be playing in front of this huge crowd. His work ethic is exceptional and he should be an inspiration to any young players looking to move to the next level. It was also great to see youngster Matt Parker get some decent minutes as he continues his impressive journey into the senior ranks and, together with Luke Mitchell, who is sadly injured at the moment, we have two of the most exciting prospects in English basketball playing for our club, which can only be good for the game, the club and the city of Nottingham”
Club Chair Graham Blankley said “What is pleasing is that we are attracting many non basketball people of all ages to our games who are now coming back week after week, it is great that families are coming and having great time at a price they can afford”
First team captain “Toli” concluded, “I couldn’t be prouder of the team this season. To finish unbeaten at home in such a competitive league is a huge achievement. We can go into the play-offs with our heads held high and hopefully bring that Second National Championship to Nottingham. We have a tough fixture in a couple of weeks against Plymouth Raiders who train with their BBL franchise so will be well drilled – it should be another cracker!”
Top Scorers: Wong 16 (12 rebounds; 3 steals); Siczek 13; Urbistondo 12; Davis 8; Wright 7; Carberry 6; Apostolidis & Stanley 5; Westley 4
Hoods now have a break before they start the end of season play offs, the opposition being the Plymouth Raiders II, part of a BBL club, in what should be another great game at the Wildcats Arena at 6.30pm on the 28th March – come early as Nottingham Hoods have captured the imagination of the public and are getting great crowds
Entry is just £2 Adults and £1 under 16’s and concessions.
Nottingham Hoods are a community club with teams from under 12’s to under 18’s, they also have a women’s section.
If you would like to watch a game or become a part of the Hoods family the check out www.hoodbasketball.com or follow @hoodsbasketball on Twitter