TEAM Solent Kestrels avenged their loss to Thames Valley Cavaliers last month in style, dominating from start to finish at the Solent Sports Complex to run out 90-69 winners.

The victory puts TSK back in pole position for the NBL Division One regular season title with two games left on the schedule, writes Jack O'Keeffe.

Remaining fixtures come against Leicester Warriors before a trip to Essex Rebels. Just one win out of two will see Kestrels crowned league champions for the third successive season.

It was a free-flowing start against Cavaliers with both teams finding easy scores early on as Ian Smith and Travis Charles opened up the hosts' account, whilst Taylor Johnson converted on a pair of lay ups for TVC.

A 7-2 run to follow for TSK prompted the visitors into their first timeout of the contest with the score at 11-6 and despite a Kai Williams lay post timeout, Kestrels continued in the ascendancy.

A 10-0 run capped off by an Andre Arissol triple gave TSK a 23-8 advantage with a little under three minutes to play in the quarter. Johnson stopped the drought with a three of his own but back-to-back trips to the line for Smith ensured Kestrels were 27-11 to the good.

Kestrels shifted through the gears in style to begin the second quarter as they opened up with a 14-0 run which ultimately ended up in them holding TVC scoreless for a seven-and-a-half minute spell. A balanced scoring effort for the hosts saw a number of players knock down shots and when Elliot Dadds stroked a three from fantastic ball movement, Kestrels held a 41-11 lead.

Blayne Freckleton and Lewis Champion stopped the run with four quick points, but Arissol would push the lead out to 31 with a triple in reply. The sides would trade baskets to close the half but that would see TSK firmly in control, up 51-23 at the break.

Hakeem Sylla scored four straight for the visitors to start the second half but Charles would reply instantly followed by Smith and Brendan Okoronkwo, who both scored on lay ups, to push the gap to 33 and force a TVC timeout.

Post timeout it would be a back and forth affair until Chris Scarlett knocked down a pair threes to give TSK a 34-point lead at 72-38.

Cavaliers rallied and strung together seven unanswered points across the back end of the third but Johnathan Lashley ensured the home side would take a 29-point lead into the final period, when he knocked a mid-range jumper with 17 seconds left.

Taylor Johnson set about trimming the deficit for Thames Valley and he would eventually bring his side to within 24 when he knocked down a pair of free throws, however Smith stopped the scoring shortage for TSK at the free throw line.

After a Kestrels timeout an 8-0 run restored a 30-point deficit whilst Champion would be ejected for TVC after picking up an unsportsmanlike foul.

The Cavaliers were able to trim the gap from the line down the stretch and a flurry of late scores would make the scoreline read a little closer than the perhaps the game actually was throughout, Kestrels winning 90-69.

TSK head coach Matt Guymon said: “I’m really proud of our guys for producing a statement with this performance.

"Right from the opening tip the focus was at a level we haven’t seen to often this season and we were able to cause Thames Valley a lot of problems with our defensive intensity.

"I thought we had a number of key contributions across the board and guys stepping up in the absence of OJ. We look forward to preparing for the final weekend of the regular season.”

Kestrels were led by the reigning NBL D1 MVP Smith, who posted 28 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds, whilst Arissol added 23 points, seven assists and six rebounds and Charles chipped in 15 points. Thames Valley’s Johnson had 25 points to lead the visitors' scoring charge with Freckleton the only other player in double figures on 18.

TSK now know the league title is in their hands as they play host to Leicester on Saturday, before making the trip to east, to face Essex on Sunday.