TEAM Solent Kestrels bounced back from their first loss in 57 NBL contests in style at the Solent Sports Complex, as they defeated Derby Trailblazers 89-60.

The dominant display saw TSK get back to winning ways as they all-but guaranteed themselves a top-two finish for the fourth consecutive season, writes Jack O'Keeffe.

Kestrels wasted no time in taking control of this one as they raced out to a 9-1 lead early on, with Travis Charles and Brendan Okoronkwo providing the scoring punch for the hosts. Despite a timeout for the Trailblazers and a brief 4-0 run, Kestrels would continue to pour it on offensively and would hold a 17-7 lead with just three minutes left in the period.

Whilst TSK were able to find their scoring rhythm it was the defensive effort that shone through however, holding Derby to just eight first-quarter points, giving them a 25-8 lead after one.

The sides traded baskets to open the second quarter as Charles continued his dominant start to the game, but it would be Derby’s American forward who also provided their scoring run, with six straight for the visitors. The hosts would call for timeout mid way through the second as the Trailblazers showed their quality trimming the gap to just 12 points through Jacob Conway.

Despite the lead being trimmed to 10 post-timeout it was TSK who strung together an 8-0 run to regain control of the game ahead of the break. A late flurry of scores from Derby’s bench through Ash Ugo and Kieran Jones would leave the scoreline at 44-31 in favour of TSK at the interval.

Conway knocked down a pair of free throws to kick start the second half but it was Kestrels who put an 11-0 run together, including a pair of Elliot Dadds triples, to give them their biggest lead of the game at 22 and coach Matt Shaw called for his first timeout of the half.

Five more TSK points post timeout increased the margin to 27, however an 8-0 run for the Trailblazers showed they had plenty of fight left and coach Matt Guymon used his first timeout of the half also. Luke Busumbru got to the basket and finished out of the timeout to give his side a much needed score, after a lack of execution pre timeout but it was Derby who trimmed the gap to 19 heading into the final quarter, 64-45 TSK.

A rapid 6-0 start to the fourth quarter effectively put this one out of reach for TSK as Ian Smith and Andre Arissol took advantage of some transition scoring opportunities and pushed the lead to 25. Both teams scored on back to back possessions out of a Derby timeout but that better suited the home side who were still out in front 76-50.

Okoronkwo knocked down a step back three to increase the deficit to 29 and with some back and forth scoring to close the game that would be how the gap stayed to finish, TSK clinching an 89-60 victory.

Guymon said: “It was great to get back on the floor again after a tough loss. I thought all of the guys did a fantastic job with their focus and commitment to the defensive end of the court.

"We look forward to getting back to work this week as we hope to continue to build momentum as we move towards the playoffs.”

Team Solent Kestrels were led by Charles, who had a monster double-double with 25 points and 15 rebounds as he proved unstoppable, whilst Andre Arissol added 15 points and Ian Smith 14. Derby’s forward Malcolm Smith had 22 points to lead their offensive charge with Conway the only other player in double figures chipping in 10.

Kestrels will now shift their focus to the biggest game of the regular season as they welcome Thames Valley Cavaliers to the SSC on Sunday, in what may prove to be a league title-deciding clash.