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The Playoff Race Starts on Sunday

Wolves will look to spring a surprise as they travel to Nottingham to face Derby Trailblazers in the Division One play-offs on Sunday.

In their first season since taking over the Essex Leopards club, a young Wolves side finished 13th with a 4-13 record in the top flight of the National League. Derby finished fourth in the table with 14 wins from 19 games, losing against sides beneath them only twice despite being forced to play all of their home games at Wildcats Arena due to the Covid-19 pandemic closing both their main venue and a back-up at Repton School.

With sides playing a reduced 19-game schedule, and Wolves somehow ending in the northern half of the division, the play-offs have been extended to include all 14 sides and a win for Thomas Baker's side would see them travel to either Team Newcastle or Leicester Warriors in the quarter-final.

Coach Baker is looking forward to the challenge of facing Blazers again:

"After the year we have all had it is great to be able to perform in the end of season competition" he said. "While the play-offs have a different structure this year, it is always interesting competing in games that have significant impact in that result alone, win and advance, lose and go home.

"The guys have responded well to our approaches and are looking forward to another competitive game against Derby, we know we will have to be at our best to advance, and the players are relishing that challenge.” While Derby won both league meetings between the sides this season, the games were contrasting. The sides shared 44 first period points in the game at Nottingham before Blazers out-scored Wolves 73-43 across the middle two quarters to win 124-93, but in the return Wolves fought back from a big third period to take the game down to the wire before Derby's American duo of Malcolm Smith and Josh Conway stepped up to seal a 92-88 victory.

Conway leads the Blazers with 18.9 points, 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals in a team-high 30 minutes per game, while Smith adds 16.9 points and 5.2 boards. Point guard Charlie Brown finished third in the Division One assists league with 6.3 per game, adding 1.4 steals, while Oliver Stanley pulled down the fifth most rebounds in the league with 9.6 per game and is also fifth in blocks with 1.2.

Wolves' American guard Jordan Santiago finished the regular season as fourth leading scorer with 22.3 points per game and led the league with 3.2 steals, adding 4.6 assists and 6.4 rebounds. Former Leopard AJ Roberts certainly made a defensive impact after signing in early January, leading the league in blocks with 1.4 per game and finishing sixth in the rebounding league with 9.2 boards per game, adding 13.5 points and 4.1 assists.

Academy player Kane Daley had a breakout season, averaging 14.6 points, four rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals while former Oaklands junior Obi Egbunike has averaged 7.1 points, four rebounds and 1.1 assists.

Head to our Twitter page for links to Sunday's live stream and live stats.

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