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US import Morgan dominant as Magic power past Derby

  Saturday, December 17, 2016

American forward Duane Morgan exploded for 32 points to help Manchester Magic end 2016 on a high with a resounding 82-51 win over Derby Trailblazers.

The victory puts Magic into second position in NBL Division One going into the Christmas break and avenges the National Cup quarter-final loss in Derby back on 20th November.

Morgan made all six of his shot attempts on his way to 14 points in the first quarter. He sat out the second due to a couple of fouls but doubled his tally by the end of the third. It was more than just a scoring display too, with Morgan also claiming 12 rebounds and four blocks in 24 minutes on court.

“We wanted to take advantage of a lot of mismatches that we had,” said Morgan. “It was in the game plan to run in transition and my teammates know I like to run. They found me in transition and they just got me in the spots where they know I like the ball.

“This is a great group of guys and everybody’s so welcoming. They’ve really helped me out getting adjusted to the system. The league is very competitive – every team has a lot of good players and a lot of aggressive players – but we just want to win everything.”

Magic opened the game with a 20-5 surge, but Derby hit six straight points to end the first quarter 20-11. As the home side ran their bench in the second quarter, the visitors clawed away at Manchester’s lead, reducing the deficit to 33-31 at the half.

Derby briefly took the advantage early in the third when Brian Amabilino Perez hit the game’s first three-pointer, but Morgan found his own shooting touch to put Magic back on top.

Fatigue seemed to affect the Trailblazers in the final period, and they really felt the absence of key players including Josh Ward-Hibbert, who had been averaging over 20 points per game over the first 10 league games. Derby managed just six points as a team in the fourth quarter.

Former Derby player Lee Goldsbrough had another strong game in a Magic vest, with a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds, as well as four blocks, and he and Morgan look like they are beginning to forge a formidable front line. Stefan Gill added 10 points, Kayin Darbey put in a controlled display at the point with 11 assists, and Simon Anumba kept the crowd happy with a couple of monster dunks.

Magic coach Paul Middleton commented: “It was a 30-point game but I feel like it wasn’t really. I think some people had to be at their very best at certain times, because even though Derby have got guys missing, look how hard they play.”

On Morgan, Middleton added: “I think he can bring a lot of energy and do a lot of things for the team which I think we were missing at times, so I’m happy with him.”

In 2017, Magic will face successive road games at Reading Rockets (7th January) and Westminster Warriors (14th January). Their next home game will see the return of tonight’s opponents Derby for a crucial Trophy semi-final on 29th January.

Fans looking for their basketball fix over the festive period should check out the annual Haris Charalambous Memorial Tournament on 27th – 29th December at Amaechi Basketball Centre, featuring eight top under-18s teams from England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain and the US.

Report by Graeme Roberts

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