25 years of Leopards – season 15

After the relative success of the 2008/9 campaign, the following season proved to be a tough one. The club had overspent the previous year, not due to financial mismanagement but because most of the expected Hoops 4 Health work had failed to materialise. There was certainly no money for full-time or import players, or a club accommodation, and a further cutback saw Leopards leave Wodson Park for a final time. The club – and its predecessors – had worked hard to make the Ware venue work, but clearly it was a losing battle. While the majority of home games were played at the Brentwood Centre, Barking Abbey became the club’s second venue as the Leopards strengthened their links with the east London academy. Whether the move was a financial success is questionable as, although there was no rent to pay, crowds at Barking were generally terrible.

Ronnie Baker, Gareth Laws, Lee Greenan and Carl Latham-Henry all returned, with the latter’s cousin Marlan Henry joining after impressing in the previous season’s Cup epic against Westminster. Baker’s contacts at Middlesex University saw Europeans Ignazio De Ferrari and Francesco Rinaldi along with guard Johnny Wright, while Chris Michaelides joined from short-lived BBL outfit Birmingham Panthers and Sam Richardson came from Division One rivals.

After a mixed, and relatively lengthy, pre-season Leopards split their National Trophy group stage games against Reading Rockets and Division One newcomers London Met – winning both home games but losing both on the road – to somehow finish bottom of the table.

After two years where the competition had been restricted to member clubs, Leopards received another invite to the BBL Trophy. The competition’s group stage had been replaced with a knockout stage with EBL sides guaranteed a home game. Which sounded great, except Chester were due to play in the BBL Cup final two days after their proposed trip to Brentwood and they flatly refused to play the game. The rules stated that the game could only be postponed if it was 24 hours before the final, but there was no way the BBL were going to kick one of their own clubs out of the competition – and there was no other date available at Brentwood.. In the end (and after many, many emails/phone conversations) an agreement was reached. The game would be played in Chester, Jets would pay Leopards £500 to cover travel costs and some of the lost revenue, and MK Lions would play in a friendly at Brentwood on the original date of the Chester game. Financially it was a real result for cash-strapped Leopards, although a 98-57 hammering at the hovel they called Northgate Arena wasn’t a lot of fun and nor was sitting in gridlock for three hours while returning the minibus next day.

The National Cup proved to be the highlight of a difficult season for the Big Cats as comfortable wins against MK Lions II and Hackney White Heat set up a trip across London to face Westside. The game was scheduled for a lunchtime tip immediately after a Saturday night trek to Taunton, necessitating an unwanted overnight stay in Slough (any stay in Slough is unwanted) but after a heavy loss against the Tigers, Leopards reached the quarter-finals with a 94-74 victory. Division Two side Brixton Topcats were the visitors to Brentwood for the quarter-finals where another good performance saw another comfortable win before Division One runners-up Manchester Magic prevented a return to the final with a 77-69 victory.

In contrast, the league season was a slog for a side with a zero wage bill. Venue availability meant that Leopards tipped off their league season a week earlier than the rest of the division with a double header against Mets and a couple of single digit defeats set the tone for a difficult campaign. A loss against Taunton Tigers saw the team fall to 0-3 before they appeared to have turned the corner with excellent home wins against Leeds and Derby (who went on to finish third and top respectively). The Derby game was proceeded by a celebrity tournament which attracted a capacity crowd and earned Leopards a nice (and much-needed) payday but the hope that people would stay to watch the game were dashed when Blazers turned up 90 minutes late due to travel problems.

A 90-85 victory at Bristol saw Leopards improve to 3-3 but that really was as good as it got as Leopards only won three of their final 16 league games. Laurent Irish rejoined the club in the January, but by mid-February (and with the signing deadline gone) they were down to seven players with coach Jon Burnell kitting up as a rarely used eighth man for the final seventh man. Ultimately home wins against the three sides below them in the final table saw Leopards safe by mid-March with a ninth placed finish.

It was the first time the new Leopards had missed the play-offs in their six year history and clearly a change was needed. A new, improved, link-up with Barking Abbey was announced (more of that in the next part of this epic) which meant that Burnell’s time as coach was over. His final game saw Leopards host Essex Pirates (another “blink and you’ll miss ’em BBL outfit) in a friendly as arguably the first distinct era in Leopards’ history ended.

26 September 2009 Leopards lose at Mets
London Mets 88 London Leopards 76
CARL Latham-Henry’s game-high 23 points were not enough to prevent Leopards slipping to an 88-76 loss at London Mets in their opening National Trophy game. A poor second half saw an under strength Big Cats outscored 48-38 by the newly promoted home side.
Latham-Henry and Ronnie Baker both returned after missing the Leopards Cup due to injury, but Gareth Laws missed his first game since signing for the club in 2007 after injuring his ankle in the same competition, and Italian forward Francesco Rinaldi has yet to receive international clearance from his Rome-based former club.
Leopards coach Jon Burnell started both Latham-Henry and Baker alongside new signings Sam Richardson and Chris Michaelides, with centre Leigh Greenan completing the starting five.
Mets, who included former Leopards Deng Deng and Laurent Irish in their line-up, opened the scoring, but the lead changed hands several times before Baker sent the visitors into the first break with a 22-21 lead.

The Big Cats led for long spells in the second quarter, but Mets’ player-coach Solomon Ayinla dragged his team back into the game, and with the home team having three attempts at the final shot, they converted to go into the locker room 40-38 ahead.

The home team took control during the third period, with their lead growing to 14 points at the midway stage before Latham-Henry and Baker brought Leopards back into the game with shots from outside the arc, and they went into the final break trailing only 64-56.

That deficit was cut to 69-66 after two minutes of the fourth period as Latham-Henry hit a three-pointer, and with the three-guard line-up of Baker, Latham-Henry and Marlan Henry working well, the Big Cats looked capable of winning the game.

However a shot-clock error saw Mets have a 31 second offence which Ajumobi converted, and the visitors’ concentration appeared to go as the home side closed out the game strongly to make a winning start in the top flight.

Henry finished with 13 points for the Leopards, while Baker added 12. Ayinla led his team with 20, Ajumobi added 16 and Noha 15 for the Mets.

27 September 2009
Leopards win the battle of the big cats

Leopards 70 (18,42,64) Milton Keynes Lions II 53 (19,31,42)

Leigh Greenan led the way with 22 points and eight rebounds as Leopards shook off a stubborn Lions team to reach the National Cup second round.

Most of the damage was done in the middle two periods as Leopards outscored the visitors 46-23 to make up for a sluggish first quarter and a poor end to the game which saw them go scoreless for the final seven minutes.

In their first game at Barking Abbey, Carl Latham-Henry added 18 points and Ronnie Baker 10 to give Leopards a home second round tie where they will meet Hackney White Heat on the same court on October 18.

The young visiting side opened the game with a barrage of shots from outside the arc, with Thompson hitting a pair and Bradford one. Leopards’ replies came from Greenan and Latham-Henry as the visitors led 9-4.

Latham-Henry added another four points and former Lion Steve Campbell got off the mark as Lions’ lead was cut to 11-10 with three first period minutes remaining.

Lions continued to fire in the three-pointers, hitting a total of five in the period, but three Baker points followed by two Greenan baskets gave Leopards their first lead of the game before Bradford hit a buzzer beating three to send his side into the first break 19-18 ahead.

Turner opened the second period scoring for Lions as they drained their six trey, before Greenan and Thompson exchanged baskets to leave the visitors 24-20 ahead after two minutes of action.

Greenan and Latham-Henry continued to be Leopards’ main scoring threat, each hitting a pair of free-throws to give them a 25-24 lead.

Bernard replied for Lions, but that proved to be the last time the visitors led as five straight Latham-Henry points launched a 9-0 Leopards run that also saw Chris Michaelides come off the bench to hit four points as the home side opened a 34-26 lead.

The previous week’s disaster from the foul line was forgotten as Leopards closed out the period with eight from eight shooting at the free-throw line, and with Baker hitting a pair with a second remaining, Leopards went into half-time with a 42-31 lead.

Baker – another former Lion – opened the second half with a pair of baskets, and Greenan extended Leopards’ run to 8-0 with a put-back.

Scores from Greenan and Latham-Henry took the Leopards’ lead to 52-33 at the midway stage of the quarter, and although Lions replied with seven unanswered points, the Big Cats closed out the period with a 10-0 run. Michaelides and Sam Richardson each scored a pair of baskets and Marlan Henry added one as they went into the final break with a 64-42 lead, and the game effectively sewn up.

Latham-Henry opened the fourth period scoring, and with Greenan adding four points, it looked as if Leopards would chalk up a big win against their Division Four opponents as they led 70-46 with seven minutes remaining.

However, with coach Jon Burnell running his bench, the Big Cats suffered a scoring drought during the rest of the game.

Lions were hardly prolific during a scrappy end to the game, averaging only a point a minute during the spell, but Burnell will be left with plenty to think about after a less than convincing win.

Leopards: L Greenan 22, C Latham-Henry 18, R Baker 10, C Michaelides 8, S Richardson 6, M Henry 4, S Campbell 2, J Wright, W Ashby.

12 October 2009
Leopards end Rockets hoodoo

Leopards 56 (18,35,46) Reading Rockets 45 (14,25,37)

LEOPARDS gave their hopes of progressing in the National Trophy a massive boost with a comfortable victory against Reading Rockets at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday afternoon.

The Big Cats took the lead with three minutes of the first period remaining, and never looked back as they recorded only their third victory in 19 attempts against the Rockets.

Since a Sam Salter trey had helped Leopards defeat the Rockets in the 2006-7 Trophy – Reading’s only loss in 22 games in the competition over three years – the Berkshire side had won nine straight games against the Big Cats.

Reading had a remarkable 2008/9 season – winning all 36 games as they completed a clean sweep of the four EBL trophies – but they had no answer to Carl Latham-Henry.

The 25-year-old Londoner was perfect from the Land of Plenty as he hit three treys in his 21 points to lead all scorers.

Peruvian forward Ignazio De Ferrari marked his debut with 11 points and five rebounds, while Ronnie Baker and Marlan Henry each chipped in with eight points as the Big Cats recorded their biggest ever win against Rockets.

Leigh Greenan had the chance to open the scoring in the first minute when he was fouled by the only American in the game – Ryan Lohfink – but he missed both free-throws and it was left to Marlan Henry to score the first points of the game, also from the charity stripe.

Lohfink replied with seven straight points to put Reading in charge, but four De Ferrari points followed by Latham-Henry’s first trey of the game gave them the lead at 10-8.

Simon Kearney levelled with a jump shot, but as the turnovers mounted for the visitors, Latham-Henry closed out the period with seven points to send Leopards into the first break with an 18-14 lead.

The Big Cats started the second period strongly, with Baker hitting a pair of treys and Latham-Henry also draining from long range as they scored 11 of the first 15 points to lead 29-18 at the midway stage of the quarter.

Seven straight Reading points, capped by a Robbie Parker three, made it a four point game with just over three minutes of the half remaining.

That proved to be the final time Rockets scored in the half, and although Leopards struggled from the foul line – hitting only two of six shots – baskets from Greenan and Henry sent home side into the locker room with a 35-25 lead.

A Lohfink free-throw followed by a Louis Sayers basket saw that lead cut to seven in the opening two minutes of the second half, but the key run came straight afterwards as Latham-Henry and De Ferrari each scored four points in an 8-0 run to lead 43-29.

Rockets weren’t done, though, and replied with eight unanswered points of their own before Baker wrapped up the period with a trey to send Leopards into the final break with a 46-39 lead.

The Big Cats’ defence had gradually tightened as the game progressed, and they completely locked the visitors down in the final period, conceding only eight points as Reading were held to the second lowest opposition score in 15 years of Leopards basketball.

Parker opened the scoring with a single free-throw, but Latham-Henry hit his final points of the game before a single free-throw from De Ferrari made it an 11 point game.

A pair of Henry points kept Leopards in control, and they never looked in danger as Greenan closed out the game from the free-throw line.

Leopards: C Latham-Henry 21, I De Ferrari 11, R Baker 8, M Henry 8, L Greenan 5, C MIchaelides 3, S Richardson, F Rinaldi, S Campbell, G Laws (DNP), J Wright (DNP)

18 October 2009
Carl leads Leopards to Cup victory

Leopards 76 (20,28,53)
Hackney White Heat 57 (12,31,46)

CARL Latham-Henry led the Leopards with 23 point as they overcame a stubborn Hackney White Heat side to progress to the National Cup third round.

The 25-year-old guard sunk three treys at Barking Abbey as Leopards set up a trip to either Westminster Warriors or London Westside in the last 16.

Leigh Greenan finished with an 18 point, 12 rebound double-double and Marlan Henry added 13 points and six assists for the home side.

The Big Cats looked to be on the way to an easy win after scoring the first 12 points of the game, but north London side fought back to lead by three at half-time, and it wasn’t until the final period that Leopards took control of the game.

Henry opened the scoring after 20 seconds, and both Greenan and Latham-Henry added a pair of baskets before Ignazio De Ferrari wrapped up the 12-0 run to put the hosts comfortably ahead after three minutes.

Craig Morris eventually broke the Heat drought, and launched a 7-0 tear for the visitors as they quickly ended any thoughts of a blow-out.

Latham-Henry struck twice from downtown as Leopards kept their noses in front, and despite Dijon Andrews scoring for Heat, the hosts went into the first break with a 20-12 lead.

Leopards had failed to score in the final 108 seconds of the first period, and that drought was extended to seven minutes 26 seconds as Hackney scored the first eight points of the second period to level the score as coach Jon Burnell ran his bench.

A pair of Sam Richardson baskets followed by a Gareth Laws jump shot in his first competitive game of the season looked to have put the Big Cats back in control, but an Andrews trey launched an 11-2 run only punctuated by a De Ferrari basket as Hackney closed out half strongly to lead 31-28 going into the locker room.

Latham-Henry opened the third period scoring – only to see Dean Defreitas-Smith reply with a trey. Leopards still trailed at the 6:40 mark when a De Ferrari basket levelled the score and launched a 6-0 run as the hosts grabbed a lead they would never lose.

Andrews broke the tear, but a Henry free-throw followed by a put-back from Greenan gave Leopards a 45-38 lead.

White Heat hung in despite their depleted numbers, but five points from Latham-Henry helped the Big Cats go into the final break with a 53-46 lead.

Defreitas-Smith opened the fourth period scoring for Hackney, but two baskets from Greenan and scores from De Ferrari and Steve Campbell in an 8-2 run gave Leopards their first double-digit lead sunce the opening minutes.

Hackney cut the lead to eight, but scores from Ronnie Baker, Latham-Henry and Greenan made it 67-53 with three minutes remaining – and the game was effectively over.

Jeffrey Duru broke the run, but Leopards closed the game out with a 9-2 run as big men Greenan and Campbell scored five and four points respectively as the Big Cats reached the last 16 of competition they won four years ago.

Leopards: C Latham-Henry 23, L Greenan 18, M Henry 13, I De Ferrari 8, S Campbell 6, S Richardson 4, R Baker 2, G Laws 2, C Michaelides, J Wright, F Rinaldi.

25 October 2009
Leopards lose to Mets

Leopards 63 (22,34,48)
London Mets 74 (16,38,54)

LEOPARDS slipped to their second defeat of the weekend against London Mets as they failed to build on a good first period.

The home side were six up at the first break, and were still ahead two minutes before half-time before allowing the visitors back into the game.

Leigh Greenan again led the Big Cats, finishing with a 20 point, ten rebound double-double, while Marlan Henry returned to the tem to add 15 and Gareth Laws chipped in with 13.

The Big Cats were again without Carl Latham-Henry, and Steve Campbell also missed the game, and one change to the starting line-up saw Chris Michaelides replace Bradley Wilkinson.

Mansour Mbeye opened the scoring for the visitors, but with Greenan and Laws scoring nine and seven points respectively, Leopards were in control for most of the period.

Five straight Greenan saw the Big Cats lead 9-8 at the midway stage of the period, and a Laws trey launched a 7-1 run as Leopards went into the first break 22-16 ahead.

Mets’ player-coach Solomon Ayinla opened the second period scoring, but back-to-back Henry scores kept Leopards ahead before the visitors responded with a 7-0 run to lead 27-26 with three minutes of the half remaining.

Six straight Greenan points kept Leopards in the game, but the visitors again finished a period strongly, outscoring Leopards 8-1 to go into the locker room 38-34.

Despite Henry missing a pair of free-throws, the Big Cats scored the first six points of the second half, with Henry hitting a pair of baskets and Wilkinson netting with a put-back.

Mbeye levelled the score at 40 with three second minutes gone, and the Big Cats never led again as he converted the bonus to launch a 10-2 run.

A Greenan basket followed by a pair of Ignazio De Ferrari free-throws cut the Mets’ lead to 50-46, but it was the visitors who closed out the period strongly to lead 54-48 at the final break.

Mbeye hit a trey to open the fourth quarter, and a Deng basket gave his side an 11 point lead although a Henry basket kept Leopards within eight going into the final four minutes, the Mets responded with an 8-0 run to effectively wrap up the game.

Leopards: L Greenan 20, M Henry 15, G Laws 13, I De Ferrari 9, R Baker 3, S Richardson 2, B Wilkinson 2, F Rinaldi 1, J Wright, C Michaelides.

24 October 2009
Leopards blow it at Mets

London Mets 72 (15,37,53)
London Leopards 69 (15,34,55)

LEOPARDS somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Saturday afternoon as they went down in their opening Division One game at London Mets.

Despite Leigh Greenan’s 28 points, the Big Cats threw away a double digit lead in the fourth period, and failed to score in the final three minutes.

The visitors were the victims of some poor refereeing which saw Mets’ over-physical full-court press go unpunished, but ultimately the unavailability of Carl Latham-Henry and Marlan Henry saw the short handed Leopards slip to defeat.

Coach Jon Burnell gave first starts of the season to Bradley Wilkinson and Gareth Laws in the place of the missing pair, with Ignazio De Ferrari switching to the small forward position.

The home side struggled to contain Greenan during the first three periods, with the 19-year-old opening the scoring.

However, it was the home side who took control of the game , and despite missing three free-throws, they reeled off a 9-0 run.

Greenan broke the run with a put-back, and another basket from the former Barking Abbey player together with a De Ferrari basket cut the deficit to three, and Leopards finished the period strongly with a Greenan and De Ferrari again scoring together with a Ronnie Baker trey as they scored the final seven points of the quarter to go into the first break tied at 15.

Greenan scored the first four points of the second quarter, and with Laws hitting back to back threes, Leopards were 25-24 up at the midway stage of the period.

Four points apiece from Chris Michaelides and Greenan kept Leopards ahead by four going into the final two minutes of the half, but it was the home team who finished the period strongly, and G Morris drained his second trey of the quarter to send Mets into the locker room with a 37-34 lead.

Greenan again opened the scoring for Leopards, hitting their first five points, but Mets remained ahead, with six straight De Ferrari points keeping the visitors in touch.

De Ferrari’ third basket in that run launched a 10-0 Leopards tear as Francesco Rinaldi scored his first competitive points as a Leopard. Baker, Laws and Greenan were also on target for the Big Cats, and although Atora Noah broke the run from the line, a Greenan score sent Leopards into the final break with a two point lead.

The visitors opened the fourth period strongly as Rinaldi poured in seven points in a 9-0 run to put them 64-53 ahead with six minutes remaining.

Former Leopard Laurent Irish launched a 10-0 run with an and-one, and with Dave Ajumboi hitting a trey in the tear, the hosts made it a one point ball game.

When Baker scored from the Land of Plenty and De Ferrari followed up with a jump shot, it appeared that Leopards were back in control.

However, at that stage they produced a truly amazing catalogue of errors as they repeatedly turned the ball over, and when they did break the Mets’ press, some poor shot selection ensured that they didn’t trouble the scorer again.

Monseur Mbeye cut the visitors’ lead to 69-68 with 90 seconds remaining after a poor pass from Greenan, and even when Mbeye was given a technical foul for elbowing Michaelides, the Leopards player evened things up by retaliating.

The home side grabbed the lead with a pair of Ajumboi free-throws, and the same player made it 71-69 with a single point from the charity stripe as Leopards were forced to foul to stop the clock.

Michaelides turned the ball over after a Burnell time-out, and Jeff Danchie added Mets’ final point from the line, and even when Rinaldi grabbed the rebound after Baker’s three point attempt rimmed out with two seconds remaining, he stepped out of bounds to end a frustrating afternoon for the Big Cats.

Leopards: L Greenan 28, I De Ferrari 12, C Rinaldi 11, R Baker 8, G Laws 8, C Michaelides 4, J Wright, S Richardson, B Wilkinson, S Campbell.

November 2009
Leopards through to last eight

London Westside 74 (13,19,45)
Leopards 94 (18,45,66)

Leopards reached their third successive National Cup quarter-finals with a comfortable 94-74 victory at London Westside on Sunday.

Carl Latham-Henry led the way for the Big Cats with 36 points, eight assists, three rebounds and three steals.

Leigh Greenan added 13 points and eight boards, with Jonny Wright finishing with ten points and Marlan Henry adding nine points to his eight assists.

Coach Burnell was able to give at least 15 minutes court time to all of his eight-man roster, and all the Leopards players got on the scoresheet.

Ronnie Baker opened the scoring for the visitors, and Leopards led from tip to buzzer as a pair of Latham-Henry free-throws put them 5-0 up.

Yannis Karalis kept his side in the game with a pair of treys, but with Latham-Henry, Wright and Chris Michaelides all converting from the Land of Plenty, the Big Cats went into the first break 18-13 ahead.

The Big Cats took control in the second period saw outscored the home team 27-6 to effectively end the game as a contest.

Latham-Henry opened the quarter with an and-one, and although big man Jonathon Haymon – who spent pre-season with the Leopards – replied for the home team, Leigh Greenan showed why the visitors stuck with him as their starting centre with five points in a 7-0 run as they took a 28-15 lead.

A Simion broke the run, but Latham-Henry hit nine straight points, capped by a trey, and Wright capped the 12-0 tear from three-point land before closing out the period with another score from downtown to give Leopards a 45-19 lead at half-time.

Leopards coach Jon Burnell used the second half to experiment with his line-ups, and although they were outscored in both periods, it proved a useful exercise for the visitors.

Latham-Henry and Baker did most of the damage for the Big Cats each hitting a pair of treys with ten and nine points respectively as they reached the final break with a 66-45 lead.

Any thoughts the home side had of a comeback were quickly dispelled as Latham-Henry scored five points in a 9-2 run to take a 75-47 lead, and they never looked back as they progressed in the competition they won in 2005/6.

C Latham-Henry 36, L Greenan 13, R Baker 12, J Wright 10, M Henry 9, F Rinaldi 6, S Richardson 5, C Michaelides 3.

22 November 2009
Leopards topple Derby

Leopards 69 (18,40,57)
Derby Trailblazers 65 (11,31,47)

LEOPARDS maintained their good home form as high-flying Derby Tralblazers were beaten at the Brentwood Centre.

The Big Cats led from the fourth minute of the game against a Trailblazers team who had gone into the weekend with ten straight wins under their belts.
Carl Latham-Henry again top scored for Jon Burnell’s team with 18 points, but was limited to 23 minutes after injuring his back midway through the third period.

Veteran point guard Ronnie Baker finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Marlan Henry added ten points.

Simon Allaway opened the scoring for Derby, with Leigh Greenan replying for the hosts, and the Trailblazers final lead of the game came when Sam O’Shea collected a defensive rebound before hitting a jump shot at the other end.

Greenan levelled the score and launched a 7-0 run which saw Latham-Henry drain a three and Ignazio De Ferrari score a jump shot.

Scores from Greenan and Latham-Henry kept the Big Cats ahead, and although former Leopard Dave Attewell cut the lead to 13-10, the home side finished strongly with Jonny Wright draining a three and Latham-Henry scoring to send Leopards into quarter-time with an 18-10 lead.

Free-throws from Attewell and Mark Woodhouse saw Derby cut Leopards’ lead to five in the first minute of the second period, only to see Latham-Henry sink a trey.

Francesco Rinaldi and Latham-Henry kept Leopards ahead with three-pointers, and scores from De Ferrari and Latham-Henry saw the hosts extend their lead to 37-23 with three minutes of the half remaining.

Matt Shaw and Latham-Henry exchanged treys, but it was Derby who closed the half strongly as Martyn Gayle hit five straight points to cut Leopards’ lead to 40-31.

Trailblazers extended that run to 10-0 as Allaway hit five straight points, but Leopards kept ahead with a Baker three-pointer.

Latham-Henry left the game with 6:51 remaining, and Derby took advantage to cut the lead to 50-45 with two minutes of the quarter left, but treys from Baker and Marlan Henry put Leopards nine ahead, and Henry hit a free-throw to send the home side into the final break with a 57-47 lead.

That lead was halved in the first three minutes of the fourth period as Attewell scored a put-back and another former Leopard, Stedroy Baker, drained a three.

De Ferrari and Henry replied, and three points from Baker meant that Leopards were 64-59 ahead going into the final two minutes of the game.

Shaw and Henry both turned the ball over at opposite ends of the court, before Leopards’ lead was cut to three with 1:26 on the clock as Allaway sunk a shot.

Greenan kept his side ahead as he blocked Woodhouse’s shot with 16 seconds remaining, and Derby were forced to foul Rinaldi with ten seconds left.

The Italian teenager missed the first free-throw but sunk the second, before Gayle went to the line at the other end as Baker was called for a foul.

Gayle hit one from two, and Stedroy Baker did likewise after a Rinaldi foul to leave Leopards 67-65 ahead with eight second left.

Spencer sent Baker to the line, and England’s most capped player showed his experience to sink both shots and seal the win.

Leopards coach Burnell was naturally a happy man after the game: “We played well, and it’s an important win for us. I thought we stayed cool even without Carl. All we have to do is find a way to win on the road.”

Leopards: C Latham-Henry 18, R Baker 15, M Henry 10, F Rinaldi 8, I De Ferrari 8, L Greenan 6, J Wright 3, C Michaelides 1, S Richardson.

29 November 2009
Leopards reach semi-finals

Leopards 95 (28,56,78)
Brixton Topcats 73 (21,35,51)

Leigh Greenan led the way as Leopards powered their way into the National Cup semi-finals with a comfortable win against Brixton.

Greenan scored 24 points and pulled down 18 rebounds as a Leopards side missing leading scorer Carl Latham-Henry due to a back injury reached the final four for the second time in their history.

Five of the Big Cats eight man squad finished in double figures, with former Topcat Ronnie Baker finishing with 21, Ignazio De Ferrari 18, Chris Michaelides 12 and Marlan Henry 11.

The home side did a good job of keeping veteran point guard Paul Mundy-Castle quiet, limiting him to just nine points off three from 15 field goal shooting, with Avelino Antonio leading the Brixton scoring 18.

Karolis Petkes added 17 for the visitors, with Tom Adorian scoring 14 despite struggling with foul trouble.

The game was won on the boards as Leopards out-rebounded the visitors 47-27, and they also out-shot Brixton from both inside and outside the arc.

Such a comfortable win never looked likely in a tight first period, with Armand Anebo giving the visitors the lead before Greenan replied with a pair of free-throws and Baker hit the first of three efforts from downtown.

Brixton replied with an 11-2 run to take a seven point lead at the midway stage of the period, but Michaelides sunk a trey to launch a 7-0 tear for Leopards and although Anebo converted a lay-up, a Greenan basket followed by a Baker and-one saw the Big Cats take a lead they never lost again.
Greenan continued to cause Topcats problems in the paint, and he took his tally to eight for the quarter as the hosts went into the first break with a 28-21 lead.

De Ferrari made it a ten-point game with a trey to open the second period scoring, and Sam Richardson hit a long two to increase the margin to 33-21 before Paul Mundy-Castle broke the 7-0 Leopards’ run.

Five straight De Ferrari points saw the Big Cats’ lead grow to 41-25 with four first half minutes remaining before Jonny Wright hit a trey to keep them comfortably ahead.

Henry got off the mark before Greenan took over in the final two and half minutes of the half, hitting ten straight points to send the Big Cats into the locker room with a commanding 56-35 lead.

Henry scored from the Land of Plenty after 21 second half seconds to open the third period scoring following a Greenan score, and with Baker also hitting a trey, Leopards were still 66-41 up at the midway stage of the quarter.

With Brixton beginning to lose composure, former Leopard Mundy-Castle collected an unsportsmanlike followed by a technical foul, and although the home side hit only four of eight free-throws during a one minute period, seven straight Baker points ensured that the Big Cats would go into the final break with a 78-51 lead.

With Greenan sitting down at the start of the fourth period, Brixton opened with eight straight points, but a time-out from coach Jon Burnell steadied things, and three-pointers from De Ferrari and Henry effective sewed things up a Leopards went into the final five minutes with an 85-66 lead.

There was still time for Michaelides to bury a pair of threes as Leopards wrapped up their seventh home win in eight games and sent them through to the final four.

Leopards: L Greenan 24, R Baker 21, I De Ferrari 18, C Michaelides 12, M Henry 11, J Wright 5, S Richardson 3, F Rinaldi 1.

5 December 2009
Victory for the Magnificent Seven

Bristol Academy Flyers 85 (24,42,66)
Leopards 90 (29,45,68)

Seven man Leopards returned from Bristol with their first away league victory of the campaign after a fine performance on Saturday evening.

With Carl Latham-Henry still missing with a back injury and Francesco Rinaldi also picking up a knock in training, the Big Cats travelled to the West Country with just seven players – with coach Jon Burnell and assistant Graham Hiscock kitting up in case of emergency.

To make matters worse, the visitors lost shooting guard Marlan Henry with a hip injury midway through the third period.

It was big men Leigh Greenan and Ignazio De Ferrari who did most of the damage for Leopards, finishing with 28 and 27 points respectively, while Ronnie Baker led the team superbly and finished with 17 points.

Greenan was unstoppable in the opening minutes, scoring ten of their first 12 points off passes from Baker, with the veteran point guard adding the other two after an audacious fake.

The teams were level at 12 midway through the period, before De Ferrari opened his account with an NBA distance trey and Sam Richard hit a jump shot to put Leopards 17-12 ahead.

The sides exchanged baskets for the rest of the period, with De Ferrari taking his tally to seven before Jonny Wright hit a three-pointer to send Leopards into the first break 29-24 up.

Tony Berry opened the second period scoring for Bristol, but five Baker points and a Richardson basket kept the Big Cats ahead, as they led 36-35 at the midway stage of the quarter.

A trey from American forward Douglas McLaughlin-Williams gave Bristol the lead, but De Ferrari and Greenan took again, and another big three from the Peruvian saw Leopards open a six-point lead going into the final minute of the half before a tap-in on the buzzer from Asa Waite cur Leopards lead to 45-42 going into the locker room.

That lead was wiped out inside ten third period seconds as McLaughlin-Williams drained a trey, but Greenan took his four shooting for the night to seven from nine before scoring from close range to put Leopards 49-45 up.

A Chris Michaelides trey kept the visitors ahead before ten unanswered Flyers points put them 57-54 ahead at the midway stage of the quarter.

Scores from Greenan and De Ferrari ensured Leopards stayed in touch before the latter hit another trey to level the score at 62 with two minutes of the period remaining, and Michaelides and De Ferrari both drained from downtown in the final minute of the quarter to send Leopards into the final break 68-66 ahead.

Baker stretched that lead to five with his second trey of the night to open the fourth period, only to see Arek Makowski answer from downtown for Flyers.

Scores from De Ferrari and Baker put Leopards 75-71 ahead with five minutes remaining, but although Richardson answered a pair of Greg Streete free-throws, Flyers cut the gap to a single point with three minutes remaining when McLaughlin-Williams drained from downtown.

That proved to be as close as the hosts came down the stretch as Greenan converted an and-one, and a De Ferrari jumper gave the Big Cats an 83-77 lead going into the final two minutes.

With Flyers forced to foul, De Ferrari converted a pair from the line, only to see Danny Williams hit a three to make it a five point game.

Michaelides stayed cool at the line to hit three of four foul shots as Leopards’ lead grew to eight in the final minute, but McLaughlin-Williams drained a three before Greenan was harshly called for a foul after an apparently clean block to send the big American to the line for three foul shots.

He missed the first, but hit the second two to make it a three point game with 21 seconds remaining.

Baker was called for a travel as Leopards inbounded the ball after a time-out, but Leopards got a stop, and England’s most capped player iced the win from the line to lift Leopards up to joint sixth in the table.

Leopards: L Greenan 28, I De De Ferrari 27, R Baker 17, C Michaelides 9, S Richardson 6, J Wright 3, M Henry, J Burnell ((DNP), G Hiscock (DNP)

7 December 2009
Leopards in semi-final action at Brentwood

LEOPARDS will be hoping it’s third time lucky when they host Manchester Magic in the National Cup semi-final on Sunday.

The Big Cats travelled to Manchester in both play-off and National Trophy semi-finals last season, and lost on each occasion – but with home court advantage this time, Jon Burnell’s team will aim to move into their second Cup final in five years.

The action at the Brentwood Centre starts at 4 pm, and Leopards will face a team who are top of Division One and have won their first 13 games in all competitions.

Leopards coach Jon Burnell knows the size of the task facing his team: “It’s a different scenario to when we travelled to Bristol on Saturday, but once again we are going to need to work hard and stick together as a team.”

“They’re the best team in the league, but we know where their threats come from. They’ve added last season’s MVP in David Watts and he’ll be a tough match-up for us. We know all about [Stefan] Gill, he can easily score 30 or 40 on any given night, while [Brandon] Kimbrough is probably the best American in the league.

“They are deep, and well coached, with lots of different options to go it. It will be tough, but we’re going in with the belief that we can win it.”

Burnell isn’t thinking ahead to the final, which takes place at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield on January 31: “I’m trying not to think about the final for my own sanity. But we’ve been there before, and as that was the highlight of my coaching career, I’d love to do it again. But at the moment, our final is on Sunday against Manchester.

“If we have everyone fit we’re a good unit, with great team spirit.”

While Leopards lost three times in Manchester last season, the league game at Brentwood produced a thrilling 85-83 overtime win for the Big Cats.

The Big Cats were 29 points clear at the midway stage of the third period, only to see Magic score 22 unanswered points, and with Manchester’s Stefan Gill scoring his side’s final seven points of regulation time, the game went into an extra period.

However, five points from Hrvoje Pervan eventually proved crucial for the Leopards as they inflicted Magic’s only defeat against anyone other than all conquering champions Reading Rockets last season.

13 December 2009
Cup dreams end for Leopards

Leopards 69 (21,37,53)
Manchester Magic 77 (8,37,51)

LEOPARDS’ National Cup dreams were ended by Manchester Magic on Sunday as they never look advantage of a good start.

Carl Latham-Henry led the Big Cats with 19 points on his return from injury, while Leigh Greenan finished with 15 points but was restricted to 24 minutes of action due to foul trouble, but the rest of the hosts’ line-up failed to deliver as Jon Burnell’s team lost a semi-final against Magic for the third time in 2009.

In a game that saw nine lead changes and seven ties, the Big Cats never used their height advantage as they were out-rebounded 43-34 by a Magic team who now play in the final for the fourth straight season.

Adam Slater opened the scoring for Magic, with Greenan replying but those proved to be the only points of the first five minutes.

It was Greenan who got Leopards moving, converting an and-one after being fouled by Nathan Schall before making it 7-2 off a Latham-Henry assist.

A block followed by a pair of Ignazio De Ferrari free-throws saw the lead extended, and with Latham-Henry hitting a three-pointer, the Big Cats went into the first break with a 21-8 lead.

Josh Houghton had scored most of Magic’s points in the first period – hitting a pair of three-pointers – but Leopards failed to stop the Great Britain under-20 international as he opened the second quarter by hitting another pair from downtown.

Greenan took hit tally to nine, but a 16-5 run saw Magic grab the lead with four minutes of the half remaining.

With Stefan Gill hitting ten straight Magic points, and Greenan scoring only one of four free-throws, Manchester’s lead grew to 36-29 going into the final two minutes of the half.

A pair of Marlan Henry free-throws broke the run, and with Latham-Henry also scoring from the charity stripe they closed out the period strongly as Sam Richardson levelled the scores with a buzzer-beating jump-shot off Ronnie Baker’s assist.

Amokolie Bell opened the second half scoring for Magic, but Greenan levelled the score and launched a 9-0 run which saw Latham-Henry, Henry and Baker all score.

David Watts and Baker exchanged three-pointers, but Watts sunk another from downtown, and although Richardson hit a pair of free-throws, Leopards’ lead was cut to 53-51 going into the final break.

Watts levelled the score in the opening play of the fourth period, but Latham-Henry hit a jump shot and De Ferrari sunk a three – his only one in ten attempts – to put Leopards up by five. Greenan picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the period to leave the game, and coach Burnell received a technical as he disputed the call.

Yann Fesbender and Gill converted three of the subsequent five free-throws, and that proved to be the turning point as Magic hit ten straight points to take a lead they never lost again. Latham-Henry broke the tear, but with the Big Cats failing to convert five straight shots, Magic kept ahead.

A Baker trey halved the deficit to 69-66 but Tom Pearson replied at the other end, and Manchester were still six up going into the final minute. Latham-Henry hit a trey with 48 seconds remaining to halve the deficit, but that proved to be the final time the Big Cats troubled the scorers, and Magic wrapped things up from the foul line.

Leopards: C Latham-Henry 19, L Greenan 15, I De Ferrari 8, R Baker 7, M Henry 6, S Richardson 6, C Michaelides 5, F Rinaldi 3, J Wright.

15 January 2010
Encouraging performance in loss

Leopards 82 (17,40,63)
Marshall MK Lions 103 (32,56,83)

LEOPARDS found high-flying BBL side Lions too strong on Friday evening as the visitors lifted the Kerland Pitman Trophy at the Brentwood Centre.

Former Leopards and England international Yorick Williams was the difference between the teams as his hit four three-pointers in a 22 point haul.

Marlan Henry led the Big Cats’ scoring for the first time this season, finishing with 22 points, while Lukas Volskis made a welcome return with 17 points – including four straight treys – and Carl Latham-Henry added 12.

Both teams were without their starting point guard and one of their big men, with Leopards missing Ronnie Baker and Ignazio De Ferrari due to illness.

While the game was effectively a friendly, both teams were certainly fired up for it, with Lions’ coach Vince Macauley being ejected early in the fourth quarter and some physical play between Williams and Leopards’ centre Leigh Greenan resulting in a double foul moments beforehand.

Lions’ veteran Mike New opened the scoring, but baskets from Latham-Henry and Henry gave Leopards the lead and Laurent Irish marked his return to the club with a three-pointer to put the home side 7-4 ahead.

That was as good as it got for the home side as they struggled to cope with the size of Williams and Dupay as the both fired in a pair of treys as a 15-2 run put the visitors firmly in charge before Irish scored the final basket of the period to cut the deficit to 30-17.

A blow-out looked on the cards as Williams capped an 8-0 start to the second period with a three-pointer to put his side 40-17 ahead, but back-to-back treys from Latham-Henry launched a comeback, and Henry did likewise as Leopards cut the visitors’ lead to 49-37 with two first half minutes remaining.

Guy Dupay and Greenan exchanged baskets to open the third period before Lions hit eight unanswered points to lead 66-42 at the midway stage of the quarter.

Greenan broke the run before Volskis took over – scoring the final 12 points of the period, all from downtown – to cut the Lions’ lead to 85-58 at the final break.

Lions continued to struggle the 19-year-old in the opening minute of the fourth period, sending him to the line with a foul as he took another trey, and he drained all three shots.

The double foul on Greenan and Williams saw Macauley ejected after picking up a pair of technical fouls, but Henry wasted the opportunity as he hit only one of the four free-throws, and Leopards also failed on the inbound as Maximillion Simon stole the ball and scored for Lions.

There was no way back for the Big Cats, but to their credit they continued to battle despite having a league game at Manchester next day, and Henry wrapped up their scoring with a three-pointer before Ishmael Fontaine dunked home for the final basket of the game.

24 January 2010
Leopards shoot down Arrows

Leopards 76 (22,42,55)
Sheffield Arrows 70 (15,30,48)

They made hard work of it, but Leopards picked up their fourth Division One victory of the campaign with a hard fought win against Sheffield, on Sunday.

In front of a big crowd at Brentwood, Leopards only trailed for 34 seconds but it took until the final two minutes for them to wrap up the victory.

Carl Latham-Henry again led the Big Cats’ scoring, finishing with 21 points in 37 minutes, while Leigh Greenan added 17 points and six rebounds with Lukas Volskis and Ignazio De Ferrari each scoring ten points.

Leopards’ illness and injury problems continued, with coach Jon Burnell too unwell to attend the game and Ronnie Baker still not well enough to play in the game. Baker stepped up to coach the Big Cats in Burnell’s absence, and he was assisted by forward Sam Richardson who looks to be out of action for several weeks with a badly broken thumb.

Lukas Volskis started in Baker’s place having re-signed for the club on Tuesday, and De Ferrari also returned to the side after missing the last three games.

Osemwegie Eboigbe opened the scoring for Arrows, but Leopards’ reply was swift as Greenan, Latham-Henry and Marlan Henry all scored in a 6-0 run.

Arrows’ game-plan seemed to be to fire as many three-pointers as possible, but they struggled to cope with the inside presence of Greenan as he scored six points in the quarter, and with Latham-Henry adding four and Chris Michaelides hitting a trey the home side led 22-15 at the first break.

Both sides struggled at the foul line in the early minutes of the second period, Arrows’ Andrew Purnell scoring the only charity shot as both sides went to the stripe four times.

A Jonny Wright trey gave Leopards a ten-point advantage after two minutes of action, and with Volskis also scoring from downtown the home side held a comfortable double-digit lead for most of the period before Ant Oxley hit a trey to make it an eight point game, but a pair of Latham-Henry free-throws sent the Big Cats into the locker room with a 42-30 lead.

Sebastian Chitagu opened the second half scoring for Sheffield as he moved towards his game-high 26 points, but Leopards looked to have put the game to bed with a 9-0 run.

Greenan five points in that tear as Leopards moved into a 19 point lead to force an Arrows time-out.

Sheffield coach Pete Kelly’s words obviously worked as Arrows answered with 11 straight points – including five from Chitagu, and although Latham-Henry broke the tear with back-to-back baskets, Arrows scored the last five points of the period to cut the hosts’ lead to 55-48 at the final break.

That lead shrunk to two points as Chitagu opened the scoring followed by a Chris Mason and-one.

Leopards looked to have weathered the storm thanks to baskets by Latham-Henry, Volskis and Henry but a 7-0 run saw Arrows grab their first lead since the opening minutes, 62-61 with 3:39 remaining.

Latham-Henry and Chitagu exchanged baskets before the Big Cats finally took control of the game.

Volskis hit a jump-shot before Henry buried a three from the top of the key to make it a four point game with 108 seconds remaining. Chitagu halved the lead, but four straight points from De Ferrari followed by a Latham-Henry basket effectively sealed the win, and Laurent Irish and Latham-Henry wrapped it up from the foul line.

Leopards: C Latham-Henry 21, L Greenan 17, L Volskis 10, I De Ferrari 10, M Henry 7, C Michaelides 5, J Wright 3, L Irish 3, F Rinaldi.

31 January 2010
Leopards downed by Jets

Cheshire Jets 99 (27,54,75)
Leopards 57 (17,26,43)

LEOPARDS found full-time professionals Cheshire Jets too strong on Sunday as they went out of the BBL Trophy with a 99-57 defeat.

The Big Cats were without Marlan Henry (work), Sam Richardson (broken thumb), Francesco Rinaldi (shin injury) and while player-assistant coach Ronnie Baker kitted up, he did not play due to illness.

With only seven fit players, the visitors never got going – and Jets were always in control after scoring the first nine points of the game.

John Simpson opened the scoring for the home side from behind the arc, and it took until the three and half minute mark for Leopards to break their duck when Lukas Volskis drained a three-pointer.

The hosts led 27-17 at the first break having blitzed the Big Cats from downtown, and dominated the second period with another barrage of three-pointers as they outscored Leopards 28-9 – including a 16-2 run – to take an almost unassailable 54-26 half-time lead.

With Carl Latham-Henry leading the way with 15 points, three assists and as many steals in 38 minutes of action, Leopards did a good limitation job in the third period as they slowed down the home side’s scoring- including a three minute period where they were held scoreless.

But having trailed 75-43 at the final break, the short-handed visitors noticeably tired in the fourth period and were outscored 24-14. Jonny Wright made an impact as he came on, hitting five points in a 7-0 burst as Leopards narrowed the gap, but the loss still goes down as the second biggest in their history.

Laurent Irish and Ignazio De Ferrari each scored 11 points for the Big Cats, while Leigh Greenan added ten points and eight rebounds as he played for all of the game bar the final 15 seconds.

Jerrah Young led the hosts with a double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds, while John Simpson had 16 and Colin O-Reilly added 12.

Leopards: C Latham-Henry 15, L Irish 11, I De Ferrari 11, L Greenan 10, J Wright 5, L Volskis 5, C Michaelides, R Baker (DNP)

21 February 2010
Leopards break losing run

Leopards 101 (33,56,82)
Tees Valley Mohawks 94 (21,49,75)

LEOPARDS snapped a four game losing streak as strugglers Tees Valley Mohawks were beaten at Barking Abbey on Sunday.

Carl Latham-Henry led the Big Cats’ scoring for the 17th time this season, finishing with 26 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals before fouling out late in the game.

Marlan Henry added 21 points and Lukas Volskis 20 as Leopards’ back-court did most of the damage, and the hosts’ three-point shooting proved key as they hit 12 of their 22 attempts from downtown.

Mohawks’ new American Nathan Connolly led the Middlesbrough side with 37 points, including 15 of his free-throws, while Great Britain international Steve Leven hit 20 before missing most of the second half with an ankle injury.

Greenan opened the scoring, though he missed the bonus after being fouled, before Latham-Henry drained from downtown, and with Chris Michaelides also scoring from long range the Big Cats rushed into a 10-3 lead just two minutes.

The hosts were still 17-12 ahead at the midway stage of the quarter, but the visitors repeatedly showed that were not going to roll over, and Unjum Khalid hit a two off Leven’s assist to make it a three point game.

However, five straight Volskis points made it 25-16, and with Henry, Iggy De Ferrari and Volskis all adding to the score in the final 80 seconds of the quarter, Leopards went into the first break 33-21 ahead.

Leven opened the second period scoring, and the visitors narrowed the gap to 36-30 in the first three minutes as only a Greenan foul shot troubled the scorers.

Henry ended the drought and De Ferrari kept the home side ahead with a jump-shot before Laurent Irish hit a pair of free-throws.

Leven hit a long two to give his side what proved to be their only lead of the game with two minutes remaining, but Leopards finished the half strongly with Volskis hitting a trey and Latham-Henry scoring the final points of the half to send them into the locker room with a 56-49 lead.

Scores from Latham-Henry and Irish saw the lead grow to nine early in the second half, and with Henry scoring off Latham-Henry’s assists the home team were 68-59 ahead at the midway stage of the third period.

Sam Richardson marked his return after five weeks out with a broken thumb when he converted a Henry assist, and Leopards finished the third period strongly as a Latham-Henry trey sent them into the final break with an 82-68 lead.

The Big Cats have struggled to kill off teams this season, and they again allowed Mohawks back into the game as the visitors – even without the impressive Leven – hit the first five points of the period before Volskis broke a three minute scoring drought with a three-pointer.

Connolly drained a trey to make it a seven point game before Henry scored from the Land of Plenty to put Leopards 88-78 ahead at the midway stage of the fourth period.

It was still a double digit lead when Greenan scored a put-back with three minutes to go, and Latham-Henry looked to have put the game beyond doubt when he made it 97-85 with 93 seconds remaining.

But with points difference potentially important in both team’s fight against relegation, Mohawks continued to chip away at the lead before a pair of Greenan foul shots wrapped up Leopards’ fifth league win of the season.

Leopards: C Latham-Henry 26, M Henry 21, L Volskis 20, L Greenan 13, I De Ferrari 8, L Irish 6, C Michaelides 5, S Richardson 2, R Baker, J Wright, F Rinaldi (DNP)

28 February 2010
Leopards shot down by Rockets

Reading Rockets 97 (31,43,68)
Leopards 91 (25,45,66)

A good performance at Maidenhead could not prevent Leopards slipping to another defeat on Sunday.

Carl Latham-Henry again led Leopards with 26 points, five assists and three steals, and all five of the visitors’ starters finished in double figures. Lukas Volskis finished with 17 points, Leigh Greenan 14 despite fouling out in the fourth period, Marlan Henry 13 and Sam Richardson 12. The game was lost on the boards, though, with Reading out-rebounding the visitors 45-22. Kenny Saunders was the top scorer in the game with 30 points, with Ryan Lohfink adding 19, Robbie Parker 16 and Jon May 13.

Reading skipper Lohfink opened the scoring for the hosts, and although Greenan replied with a pair from the line, Rockets built a 13-6 lead after four minutes – Henry scoring both the Leopards’ field goals.

Five straight Latham-Henry points, including an and-one dragged the Big Cats back into the game, and with both teams making plenty of visits to the foul line, Reading remained ahead.

That lead had grown to 31-22 after a Robbie Parker free-throw, but Chris Michaelides hit a buzzer-beater from downtown to make it a six point game going into the first break.

A Henry basket launched a 6-2 run as Leopards opened the second quarter strongly and although Louis Sayers broke the tear from the foul line, a long two from Volskis saw the Big Cats take a 41-36 lead on the back of an 8-0 run which also saw Latham-Henry and Henry score.

A Sayers trey levelled the score, but it was Leopards who went into the locker room with a 43-45 lead following a Latham-Henry jump shot.

Matt Johnson’s half-time team talk obviously worked well as Parker trey launched a 10-0 run, and it took until the three minute mark for Sam Richardson to put Leopards on the scoresheet. That basket started a 12-2 run as Leopards fought their way back into the game. Greenan hit a long two before Volskis scored seven straight points.

The impressive Saunders broke the run, and although Henry hit his only trey of the night, the home side closed out the period with a 5-2 run to go into the final break with a 68-66 lead.Scores from Latham-Henry and Mike Holbrook cut the deficit to one point, but Parker hit a trey and Fenny Falmange scored with a drive to the basket to put themselves back up by six.

The game of runs continued as a Latham-Henry and-one started a 9-2 run as baskets from Greenan and Henry put them 79-78 up going into the final four minutes.

That Greenan basket proved to be his penultimate play of the game as the fouled out on a harsh call after Lohfink appeared to step out of bounds, and coach Jon Burnell also collected a technical foul straight afterwards.

Rockets hit only one of the four foul shots to level the game at 79, and Henry hit a jumper to put Leopards back up by two. A 8-2 Reading run saw them regain the initiative, and with back-up centre Holbrook joining Greenan, Leopards never led again as the home side wrapped up the win from the foul line.

Leopards: C Latham-Henry 26, L Volskis 17, L Greenan 14, M Henry 13, S Richardson 12, C Michaelides 5, M Holbrook 4, R Baker

14 March 2010
Victory for the Comeback Kids

Leopards 86 (18,40,66)
Coventry Crusaders 78 (27,50,62)

LEOPARDS took a massive step towards Division One safety with a come-from-behind victory against Coventry Crusaders on Sunday.

The Big Cats recovered from a 16 point deficit to reel off 25 straight points to take a key victory in the relegation battle.

The home side trailed 36-22 at the midway stage of the second quarter, and were still down by 15 halfway through the third period before a Leigh Greenan basket sparked an incredible comeback.

Six different players scored for the Big Cats as Crusaders were held scoreless for nine and half minutes, and the home team never looked back.

Latham-Henry led the Leopards’ scoring with 23 points, with Greenan adding 18 points and nine rebounds, and Marlan Henry finishing with 15 points and eight assists.

Crusader’s Dave Edden led all scorers 27 points and seven rebounds, while Matt Smith also had seven boards to his 18 points.

Smith’s fellow American went agonisingly close to a triple-double, finishing with 11 assists, ten rebounds and nine points, adding three steals in a game-high 38 and half minutes of action.

Sam Richardson opened the scoring, but a tight first five minutes saw the teams exchange baskets, with a Richardson basket off Lukas Volskis’ giving the hosts a 12-11 lead after four minutes.

However, that was the last time Leopards would score for nearly five minutes, and Crusaders reeled off 14 straight points, capped by a pair treys from Barking Abbey graduate Ryann Samuel to give Coventry a 25-12 lead.

Volskis broke the run with a three-pointer off Latham-Henry’s assist, and although Chris Michaelides also scored from downtown, Leopards reached the first break trailing 27-18.

It didn’t get any better for the hosts, as Olinger scored from the Land of Plenty to open the second period, and an Edden trey gave them the biggest lead of the game at the 5:05 mark.

It was Latham-Henry who, almost single-handedly, kept Leopards in the game as he scored 13 of their 22 second period points before Henry beat the buzzer with a huge three to cut Coventry’s lead to 50-40 going into the locker room.

There was little sign of the stunning recovery in the first three minutes of the second half as it took another Henry trey to keep Leopards within ten, and a Simon Payne three-pointer put Coventry 62-47 ahead with six minutes of the third period remaining.

And then it started.

A pair of Greenan baskets started the tear, and the seven footer went on to score ten in the run, including the basket which put Leopards ahead with 93 seconds of the quarter remaining.

Volskis sunk a trey, with Mike Holbrook and Henry also getting on the scoresheet as Leopards scored the final 19 points of the quarter to go into the final break 66-62 ahead.

Henry opened the fourth period scoring before four points from Michaelides made it 72-62 before Edden finally ended the drought at nine minutes and 26 seconds.

Payne cut into Leopards’ lead, and their advantage hovered around the five mark until Latham-Henry buried a trey with 3:10 on the clock. Leopards knew they had to win by ten to clinch the head-to-head decider, and two Greenan free-throw put their lead back into double figures with 93 seconds remaining.

With Crusaders forced to foul to stop the clock, the Big Cats converted four of their six shots from the charity stripe down the stretch, and although Olinger’s basket with 18 seconds remaining gave his team the decider, it was the home fans who went home happy as Leopards snapped a four game losing streak.

Leopards: C Latham-Henry 23, L Greenan 18, M Henry 15, S Richardson 11, C Michaelides 9, L Volskis 8, M Holbrook 2, R Baker (DNP)

3 April 2010
Leopards shot down by Arrows

Sheffield Arrows 89 (16,35,60)
Leopards 66 (28,38,60)

THE Big Cats rounded off their league campaign with a disappointing 89-66 loss at already-relegated Sheffield Arrows on Easter Saturday.

Jon Burnell’s team had started strongly, rushing into a 28-16 lead at the first break, and their lead peaked at 34-18 two minutes into the second period, but that was as good as it got as a six minute drought saw Arrows gain the momentum.

Carl Latham-Henry, who led the Leopards with 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals, opened the scoring after 18 seconds with a drive to the basket, and scores from Sam Richardson and Leigh Greenan set the tone for the first period as the visitors rushed into a 6-0 lead.

Lukas Volskis, who finished with ten points and four assists, extended the Big Cats’ lead to 9-2 with a trey, and a tree-point play from Latham-Henry saw their lead reach double figures.

Another Latham-Henry and-one put Leopards 22-11 ahead going into the final three minutes of the period, and scores from Volskis and Latham-Henry sent the Big Cats into the first break ahead by 12.

The visitors’ domination continued in the opening stages of the second period continued, and after Latham-Henry had opened the scoring, baskets from Marlan Henry and Greenan made it a 16-point game.

An then Leopards fell to pieces. They stopped pumping the ball inside to Greenan, and with Sebastian Chitagu scoring freely on the way to a 40 point night, Arrows reeled off 14 straight points to cut Leopards’ lead to 36-35 going into the final 30 seconds of the half before Latham-Henry ended the drought and make it a three point game going into the locker room.

Scores from Latham-Henry and Greenan kept Leopards ahead in the early stages of the third period, but a Semi Eboigbe three-point play gave Arrows their first lead of the game at 44-43 with 6:42 on the clock.

The third quarter remained tight, and Leopards were 52-50 up with three and a half minutes remaining when Greenan was called for a harsh foul, and when the young centre protested he was hit with a technical foul, and promptly fouled out of the game.

Greenan had scored 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds in his 23 minutes of court, and his departure clearly hurt Leopards, though they were still level at 60 going into the final period following a Chris Michaelides three-pointer.

The fourth quarter saw the visitors totally lose composure, and their lack of numbers came back to haunt them again.

A Mike Holbrook basket meant they only trailed 64-62 after a low scoring first four minutes, but the lead quickly reached double figures as Josef Faddoul sunk a trey, and with only Richardson and Latham-Henry troubling the scorers in the final four minutes, Leopards were outscored 27-4 to give Sheffield only their third league win of the campaign.

Leopards: C Latham-Henry 24, L Greenan 14, L Volskis 10, S Richardson 7, M Holbrook 4, M Henry 4, C Michaelides 3.

11 April 2010
Pirates outlast Leopards

Leopards 70 (32,40,54)
Essex Pirates 84 (20,45,62)

LEOPARDS found the strength in depth of BBL neighbours Essex Pirates too strong on Sunday as their season ended with a defeat in the Essex Challenge Cup.

The Big Cats were unable to build on a stunning first period performance which saw them lead by as many as 16 points, as once again their short bench saw them tire.

With leading scorer Carl Latham-Henry injured and Mike Holbrook unavailable, Leopards drafted in Bradley Wilkinson (who started the season with them) and Jesse Chuku from Barking Abbey for coach Jon Burnell’s final game in charge.

Leigh Greenan and Sam Richardson led the hosts with 12 points apiece, while Chris Michaelides and Marlan Henry each added 11 in a balanced scoring effort.

Burnell’s team raced out of the blocks as Michaelides drained a three and Greenan converted from close range.

A rare trey from Richardson followed by a pair of free-throws from him put Leopards 10-3 ahead, and that lead was extended to 14-3 with scores from Michaelides and Greenan.

Volskis also scored from the Land of Plenty before Jamal Anderson sparked a 7-0 run for the Pirates to cut the lead to 17-12.

Leopards response was immediate with a 10-0 run which saw Michaelides and Henry both sink threes and Volskis score the other four points as they opened a 27-12 lead.

Anderson replied with a single free-throw before Greenan scored again to give Leopards what proved to be their biggest lead of the game.

Pirates scored the final four points of the period through Taner Adu and Sam Toluwase to cut the lead to 32-20 at the first break, and that set the tone for the second quarter.

Only Chuku got on the scoreboard for Leopards in the first five minutes as Pirates opened with a 10-2 run, and although Wilkinson broke the run with a free-throw, the visitors replied with another nine straight points to take the lead for the first time.

Three points from Wilkinson plus a Henry jump-shot kept Leopards in the game, but American forward Randy George completed the first half scoring to send Pirates into the locker room with a 45-40 lead.

Adu opened the second half scoring as Pirates scored the first five points, and although Richardson scored five points – including another trey – in the third period, the visitors stretched their lead to 62-54 at the final break.

Any thoughts of a comeback were quickly erased as Pirates – who effectively wore Leopards down with their 14 man rotation – opened the final stanza with a 16-2 run, as only Chuku troubled the scorers for the Big Cats in the first seven minutes.

A timeout from Burnell stopped the rot, and with Chuku burying a three-pointer and Greenan scoring back-to-back baskets, Leopards outscored the visitors 15-4 in a three minute spell before Michaelides finished as he started by hitting a buzzer-beating three to finish the season.

Leopards: L Greenan 12, S Richardson 12, C Michaelides 11, M Henry 11, L Volskis 9, J Chuku 9, B Wilkinson 6.

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