25 years of Leopards – season 16

After six years with Jon Burnell as coach, it was all change for Leopards as they went into the 201/11 season with a new coach, team, name and a feeder team along with a women’s side. After the struggles of the previous season it was clear that there needed to be changes, and it was a whole new look for the Big Cats.

The partnership with Barking Abbey Academy was taken to a new level as the east London school take over coaching for Leopards – with the familiar face of Mark Clark taking over and being assisted by Lloyd Gardner – and the team being based around BA’s young players. But with funding in place for Leopards to run their own Hoops 4 Health scheme – and ensure the work was obtained and fulfilled – they were able to also recruit full-time players and again provide club accommodation. The new link up saw the club renamed BA London Leopards, while the school’s Division Four and women’s teams were to be called Barking Abbey Leopards.

American guard Josh Sharlow and big man Leigh Greenan were recruited to work for the Hoops 4 Health scheme, and with practice taking place immediately after school, Leopards’ were limited to which senior players they could recruit, but guard Marlan Henry returned to the club.

It was entirely new way of running the club, and after a slow start, it certainly worked. A mixed bag of results in the National Trophy saw Leopards finish third in their five team group (the whole season was plagued by withdrawals as London Mets failed to start after one year in the top flight and Coventry fold mid-season) to set up a trip to eventual Division One champions Bristol Flyers. A stunning 78-58 victory in the West Country gave Leopards a semi-final at Reading Rockets where the Big Cats were edged out 62-60 in overtime.

There was also a semi-final appearance in the National Cup as Hackney White Heat and Brixton Topcats were beaten before Derby Trailblazers won another tight game, 82-79 at the Brentwood Centre.

The league season started slowly and as the two semi-final defeats show, it was a learning curve for a young Leopards’ team. A 67-78 home loss against Flyers came early in the season but proved to be a defining moment in the title race with only 18 games. The signing of Ousman Krubally in December was the key moment in the season for the Big Cats as the American forward took the team up a level and a stunning 80-51 victory at Flyers in the return suggested that if he had been with the team all season they may have won the league title. But they were always chasing Flyers and the West Country side eventually finished a win clear of the Big Cats.

It was still Leopards’ most successful league season, and they went into the play-offs with a real chance of lifting the season’s final piece of silverware. Division One newcomers Durham Wildcats were the visitors to Brentwood and Leopards led from tip-to-buzzer on the way to a 77-68 victory. Semi-finals clearly weren’t the Big Cats’ thing, unfortunately, as they underperformed to end a successful season with an 80-69 loss against Reading Rockets at the Amaechi Centre.

12 August 2010
Mark’s the man for Leopards

LEOPARDS have announced that Mark Clark will be head coach as they embark on their seventh England Basketball League Division campaign.

The experienced Clark was assistant coach when the old Big Cats won the BBL title in 1997 and 1998, also winning the National Cup in 1997.

After leaving the Leopards he returned to national league basketball where he led Ware Rebels to three straight promotions before stepping down to be replaced by Jon Burnell. The Rebels went on to merge with the Leopards Alive supporters group nine months later to form the current Leopards club.

Clark is also the former England women’s national team coach, guiding them to an impressive 58% winning percentage in a record high of 45 internationals.

When the home nations merged to form a GB team following London getting the 2012 Olympics, Clark was natural choice as coach for the women’s team and he surprised everyone by leading Britain to an immediate promotion from Division B to the top flight.

Clark has recently been running the Barking Abbey Basketball Academy, arguably the top academy in the country, and led their women’s team to fifth place in Women’s EBL Division One last season as well as a place in the Final Four.

Leopards’ chairman Fred Dicker is delighted to have Clark leading the new-look Big Cats next season: “I am absolutely delighted to welcome Mark back to the Leopards organisation. He has a distinguished coaching career and we are all very much looking forward to working with him.”

Clark is also pleased to be leading the Leopards in a season which starts next month: “I’m excited to be back with Leopards especially as part of the development of our programme at Barking Abbey. The combination of some of the best young players in the country and some quality experienced players is going to excite both myself and the Leopards’ fans.”

General Manager, Dave Ryan said: “Having Mark as coach is a no-brainer really. I don’t think you can get someone much more experienced than 80 plus internationals plus loads of games at both BBL and national league level. We’re looking forward to working with Mark and his coaching staff, and we’re sure they will help us have a successful season.”

Clark’s first game in charge of Leopards will be on Friday, September 10 when the Big Cats host Team USA Select at Brentwood where the new link up with Barking Abbey will be formally launched.

14 August 2010
Leopards announce community scheme

LEOPARDS are celebrating this week after the news that their application for a grant to run Hoops4Health in East London during the next term has been granted.

The Big Cats will visit and provide basketball coaching with practical healthy living advice for children over the age of 10 years old in the London Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham and Redbridge with the eventual aim of producing health conscious, talented, basketball players.

The scheme will allow Leopards to employ two full-time players to work on the community scheme and will enable them to strengthen their team.

The Leopards have previously worked on a similar project, but will now be fully responsible for the full operation.

“It’s great news for us” said General Manager Dave Ryan. “It enables us to work in the community and increase the club’s profile, as well as helping us improve on the court.”

“We hope to expand the programme to include the Brentwood area, and are currently looking for a commercial sponsor to help us achieve that. Anyone who is interested should contact the club on 07828 470015.”

“I’d like to thank Gareth Roberts and Ian Mitchell for all the work they have done to get the funding. To say they’ve had to jump through hoops would be both a pun and pretty accurate!”

7 September 2010
Greenan returns as Leopards tip-off

AS Leopards prepare for their opening weekend of pre-season games, the Big Cats have announced that centre Leigh Greenan will be returning for his fourth season with the club.

The 7 foot former England junior international has been a key part of the Big Cats team since signing for the club at the start of the 2007/8 campaign.

The 20-year-old led Leopards’ scoring on nine occasions last season, and is widely regarded as one of EBL Division One’s leading big men.

“It’s great to have Leigh back again” said general manager Dave Ryan. “We’re looking for him to have a big season, he has a lot of experience at this level now and has played close to 100 games for us.”

Greenan will work for the Leopards in their Hoops 4 Health community scheme which sees the Big Cats providing basketball coaching with practical healthy living advice for children over the age of 10 years old in the London Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham and Redbridge with the eventual aim of producing health conscious, talented, basketball players.

Another player returning to the club is shooting guard Marlan Henry, with the Big Cats due to announce the name of their new American guard next week.

Greenan and the rest of the Leopards open their season with a tough pair of home games this weekend.

On Friday evening they host touring team USA Select at Brentwood, with the action starting at 7.30 pm.

It will be the third time the teams have met, with both the previous two having seen the American side come on top in games played at Capital City Academy in Neasden. They won 78-51 last year and 80-72 in September 2006.

To open the season, Leopards are running a “kids for a quid” scheme on Friday with children under-16 admitted for £1.

Leopards then visit their other home on Sunday afternoon when they host BBL play-off champions Mersey Tigers, tip-off 4 pm at Barking Abbey.

Tony Garbelotto’s team have proved to be the summer’s big spenders with the capture of GB captain Andrew Sullivan and his former international colleague Tafari Toni.

11 September 2010
Leopards fall to Americans

LEOPARDS’ season opened with a defeat against a strong looking Team USA Select side at Brentwood, on Friday as they went down 56-74.

With 20-year-old Leigh Greenan the Big Cats’ second oldest player, it was a youthful home side who took to the floor, but with two senior players still to join up with Mark Clark’s team there were plenty of positives for the Leopards.

Greenan finished one rebound shy of a double-double with 19 points, while Marlan Henry added 13 points, four rebounds and two steals with Josh Johnson chipping in with eight points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Eddie Marrs led the visitors with 17 points, five boards and four steals, with Jarvis Hill and Devon Carter each adding 13 points, and the latter pulling down five rebounds.

The Big Cats out-rebounded the Select team 39-30, but struggled offensively and also turned the ball over 23 times.

Greenan opened the scoring with a three-point play, and a tight first period saw the visitors go into the second quarter with a 23-21 lead. They never gave up that advantage as a 13-0 run saw USA take control of the game, and they went into locker room with a 42-28 lead.

A low scoring third period saw the visitors shade it 10-8 to lead by 16 at the final break, and they wrapped things up with a 22-20 fourth stanza.

13 September 2010
Clark happy with Leopards’ start

LEOPARDS coach Mark Clark was pleased with his side’s performances despite seeing them lose both of their pre-season friendlies over the weekend.

Leopards’ season opened with a 74-56 defeat against a strong looking Team USA Select side at Brentwood, on Friday, while two days later they were beaten 94-55 by BBL play-off champions Mersey Tigers.

“It’s been a really good start, it shows the level guys have to work at, and I’m pleased with how it went” said Clark.

“We’ve played two good groups and gives us a marker to where we currently are. We can go back to work on Monday, and start getting better. The young guys showed what they can do, and when we add some older guys we’ll be better. We were a lot better on Sunday than Friday and we need to keep on improving.”

Against Tigers, England junior international Josh Owen-Thomas led the way with 12 points and Josh Johnson added 11 against Tigers side containing two GB internationals and two current England players.

Leigh Greenan gave the Big Cats the lead with a pair of free-throws, and scores from Henry and Owen-Thomas kept them ahead before a 10-0 run capped by England captain James Jones gave Tigers a lead they would never lose.

The visitors led 29-15 at the first break, and although Zac Wells opened the second period scoring, a seven minute scoring drought saw Tigers reel off 21 points to lead 50-17.

Owen-Thomas finally broke the run, and with Simeon Espirit hitting four points, Leopards cut the deficit to 66-31 at half-time.

Leopards started the second half strongly as Owen-Thomas hit five points in a 12-2 run, and the hosts won the period 13-10 to trail 76-44 at the final break.

With the game being held up following a collision between Greenan and referee Bob Bhania, Leopards couldn’t maintain that form in the fourth period, but there definite signs of improvement from Friday’s game.

20 September 2010
Sharlow joins Big Cats

LEOPARDS have added American point guard Josh Sharlow to their roster ahead of Sunday’s season-opener against Reading Rockets at the Brentwood Centre.

The 25-year-old joins from Saint Lawrence University in New York State where he was one of the college’s most successful players ever.

The 6’ 1” point guard is excited to be joining the Big Cats: “I’m very excited about playing for the Leopards!” he said.

“To have the opportunity to travel overseas and continue to play basketball is something I have always wanted to do, and I look forward to spending the next several months in England. I’ve heard great things about London and I’m excited to just start playing and doing whatever I can to help the club win!”

“Josh is a tremendous playmaker and has the ability to make everyone around him better,” said SLU coach Chris Downs. “We couldn’t be more proud of him and look forward to him buying a bunch of Leopards t-shirts for the guys back here in the states…Go Big Cats!”

Sharlow had an excellent four-year career at SLU, making an immediate impact as a first-year point guard and earning Liberty League Rookie of the Year honors in 2007.

He led the Saints to four straight Liberty League Tournament appearances and three straight regular season titles.

Under his leadership, the Saints held an overall conference record of 46-11 (.804) and made three NCAA tournament appearances. The New York native earned second team All-Conference honors in 2008 and first team All-Conference honors in 2009 while also being named to the NABC All East Region second team. While captaining the 2010 squad, he closed out his final season recording career totals of 1,044 points, 492 rebounds, and 468 assists. He earned Liberty League Player of the Year honors and was named to the 2010 State Farm Division III All-America Second Team – the sixth in program history.

“We’re really excited about signing Josh” said general manager Dave Ryan. “The coaching staff have worked hard to ensure that we get the right kind of player, who will gel with our young team and understand the challenges that will bring.”

Sharlow becomes the first player that Leopards have signed straight out of the American college since the 2006/7 season, and he will work in the club’s Hoops 4 Health community scheme which sees the club providing basketball coaching and healthy living advice in Barking and Havering. The Big Cats hope to have him in the country in time for Sunday’s National Trophy game against Reading Rockets, which tips off at 4pm.

24 September 2010
Leopards announce roster

AS they prepare for their seventh season in EBL Division One, Leopards have announced their roster for the 2010/11 campaign.

Head coach Mark Clark still hopes to add a senior big man, with a Spanish player due to come on trial next week, but unlike last season when the Big Cats struggled for numbers, there is plenty of depth in the roster.

Former England junior international Leigh Greenan returns for his fourth straight year with Leopards, and the seven foot tall centre is now working for the club’s Hoops 4 Health policy as well as training ever y day at Barking Abbey.

Shooting guard Marlan Henry is the only player to return from last year and will provide some veteran leadership for our young side.

American point guard Josh Sharlow becomes Leopards’ first import player since the 2008/9 season, but the won’t be the only Josh in the backcourt as the Big Cats have added Josh Owen-Thomas and Josh Johnson.

Carshalton born Owen-Thomas (pictured) started for England under-18s over the summer and averaged 11.1 points in 29 minutes for the national team over the summer, shooting over 45% on his 35 three-point attempts. Meanwhile, Leopards have fought off interest from Spain and several BBL clubs to add Johnson, who played for Barking Abbey last season.

David Akibo and Dominic Norton both travelled to Estonia for the under-16 European Championship this summer. Akibo was unfortunate to suffer and injury that ruled him out of the tournament, but shooting guard Norton averaged 6.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 steals in 25 minutes for England, and poured in 15 points in the victory against Ireland.

Meanwhile Keelan Cairns can look Greenan in the eye, and joins the Big Cats from Belfast Star, while Simeon Espirit joins up with the Leopards after turning down another London club.

The full Leopards roster is as follows:

4. Dominic Norton
5. Ryan Alexis
6. Sam Dunscombe
7. Simeon Esprit
8. Mantas Adomaitis
9. Josh Johnson
10. Marlan Henry
11. Josh Sharlow
12. Leigh Greenan
13. Josh Owen Thomas
14. Keelan Cairns
15. Zak Wells
16. Louis Annan
17. Rikki Broadmore
18. David Akibo

23 September 2010
Leopards look to shoot down Rockets

THEY may be old rivals, having met on 21 occasions over the last six years, but Leopards and Rockets will both have new looks when they meet at the Brentwood Centre, on Sunday.

Both clubs have new coaches, with Mark Clark taking charge at the home side and Samit Nuruzade is now the Rockets coach.

The teams have also undergone major changes, with only Leigh Greenan and Marlan Henry returning after a disappointing 2009/10 season for the Leopards which saw them miss out on the play-offs for the first time.

While the new-look Leopards are built around talented young players at Barking Abby Academy, they have added American point guard Josh Sharlow to their roster, and hope to have him available for Sunday’s game.

One piece of good news for the Big Cats this week is that talented youngster Josh Johnson (pictured) has committed to the club having attracted attention from both abroad and at several BBL clubs.

Sunday’s visitors have also undergone changes during the summer, with Samit Nuruzade becoming their fourth head coach in three years. They have certainly been busy in the transfer marked, with American Niko Scott and English point guard Matt Guymon snatched from under the noses of Manchester Magic and Plymouth Raiders respectively. Rockets won three of the four games between the sides last season, so we’ll be looking to improve that record.

Rockets performance analyst Ben Fisher is expecting a tough game at Brentwood: “The Leopards are a team we know well and an organisation that are very similar to us in that they are really looking to develop young English talent, now under the guidance of Mark Clark. Like us, we know they have a young team that has some experience in the form of Leigh Greenan and Marlan Henry. The addition of American point guard Josh Sharlow will definitely help them and bring some much needed experience and guidance to their ranks and we will have to be very wary of the threats he possesses.”

27 September 2010
Leopards lose opener

LEOPARDS still have lots of work to do following their 83-54 home loss against Reading Rockets on Sunday.

With American point guard Josh Sharlow still in The States, and other signings to follow, it was a young Leopards team who faced Rockets in their opening National Trophy game at the Brentwood Centre.

“We’re still a long way from the finished article”, said general manager Dave Ryan. “By the time we return to Brentwood in five weeks we’ll definitely have Josh, and we’re also looking at adding two other senior players.

“That’ll change the whole dynamics of the team, and give us some more experience. The kids did well, and it was good to see that Friday’s rush to get Keelan Cairns’ international clearance was worthwhile, we just need to give them a bit of help.”

Marlan Henry, the team’s veteran at 27, led the scoring with 14 points, while Simeon Espirit and Cairns each added nine points – the former also pulling down nine rebounds.

The Big Cats had no answer to Rockets’ American Niko Scott who led all scorers with 28 points in just 24 minutes, with Louis Sayers and Matt Guymon each adding ten points.

Espirit opened the scoring with a pair from the foul line, and scores from Henry and Cairns helped Leopards into a 7-4 lead after four minutes of action. But Scott gave notice of what was to come with eight straight points as Rockets grabbed a lead they would never lose, and despite Cairns and Henry both scoring treys, the visitors led 24-19 at the first break.

Espirit again opened the scoring in the second period, and a Josh Owen-Thomas trey made it a two-point game before Scott capped a 13-2 run with five points to put Rockets into a double-digit lead.

The visitors closed out the half strongly with the final 12-0 run, with Junior Jack hitting a pair of treys – including a buzzer beater – to send his team into the locker room leading 53-30.

Matt Gymon opened the second half scoring for Reading, and although Espirit hit four points in a 6-0 run, Leopards were never able to get the margin below 20 as four Sayers points put Reading 71-42 up at the final break.

An 8-2 run early in the fourth period sparked by Dominic Norton did give the home fans something to cheer about but Reading comfortably held on for the victory and the Leopards’ coaching staff will be looking to strengthen their squad before returning to action on October 9 at Bristol.

Leopards: M Henry 14, S Espirit 9, K Cairns 9, L Greenan 8, J Johnson 5, D Norton 4, J Owen-Thomas 3, L Annan 2, S Dunscombe, M Adomaitis, Z Wells, D Akibo (DNP)

11 October 2010
Clark happy with weekend

LEOPARDS coach Mark Clark was happy with his new look team as they bounced back from defeat at Bristol in the National Trophy to hammer Hackney White Heat 100-65 on Sunday.

“It was a good weekend for us” he said. “We showed in first part of game at Bristol that we have guys who can play at this level. We struggled a bit to adjust but Bristol played well, and deserved the win. It was a good learning opportunity on the floor and gave us the opportunity to give a lot of minutes for Josh Sharlow which is important.

“We came out on Sunday and Hackney gave us some problems early in the game, so we had to adjust on the floor. Again we gave Josh some major minutes, and we talked at half-time about the guards needing to be an offensive threat.

“Borja [Pintor Henningsen] came off the bench as Leigh [Greenan] was struggling and he really gave us energy, but everyone contributed which is encouraging.

“We have a long way to go, and we might have to make some additions, but there’s two reason for doing this. One as a is to be competitive on the floor and we’re starting to do that, and two – as a programme – it enables our best young players to play at the right level. We’re starting to achieve what we set out to do.”

The win means that Leopards will face Westminster Warriors in the third round at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday October 31.

25 October 2010
Leopards Trophy dream salvaged

A week after it appeared that their National Trophy hopes were over, Leopards have been thrown a lifeline after their game at PAWS London Capital was declared void.

The Big Cats launched an appeal against the 73-56 defeat as Capital’s court was marked out with the post-2012 court markings – against England Basketball rules – and the Competition Committee have backed them and ordered a replay.

Following the London Olympics the three-point line will be moved back half a meter and the lane under the basket will be widened.

Although EB are willing to allow clubs to play with the new three-point line, they are insisting that the smaller lane under the basket is also marked out.

“We only appealed against the loss because we felt we had a genuine case” said general manager Dave Ryan.

“Obviously we’re pleased to be given a second chance, but we did make it clear before the game that we felt the court needed re-marking and this could have all been avoided.

“We looked into the rules after the game, and we were surprised that it’s okay to play with the new three point line, but that’s a moot point – we appeal under the rules and we’ll be looking for a victory when we go back to Capital City Academy.”

The date of the replayed game has yet to be determined, but it needs to played before the Christmas break.

It is the first time since Leopards joined EBL Division One seven years ago that a top flight game has been replayed, but the Big Cats have a reputation for doing something a bit different having seen a league game against Bristol Academy Flyers finish three months after it started to an injury to a player.

31 October 2010
Leopards hold on to beat Warriors

Leopards 72 (19,32,57) Westminster Warriors 69 (10,27,49)

LEIGH Greenan finished with a 24 point, 12 rebound double-double as Leopards reached the National Cup quarter-final for a fourth straight season.

Mark Clark’s side will now host Division One champions Derby Trailblazers in the last eight, and the Big Cats’ coach was pleased with the result although he admitted his team should have wrapped the win up earlier in the game:

“We won, which was the important thing, but we certainly made hard work of it” he said. “The fact that our top two scorers from last week [Keelan Cairns and Simeon Espirit] scored just one point between them says something, but a win’s a win.”

In front of their first ever 1000 plus crowd, Leopards trailed for just 44 seconds in the game, but Westminster still had the ball with five seconds remaining and it took some tough defence to prevent them having a shot to send the game into overtime.

Josh Sharlow finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists, with Josh Johnson adding 12 points and Josh Owen-Thomas ten.

Baker led the visitors with 17 points, with Yannick Bulambwe adding 15 and player-coach Junior Williams 13.

Former England international Williams opened the scoring from the foul line for the visitors, but four straight Greenan points sparked a 15-2 run which looked to have put Leopards in control and despite Greenan being forced to sit down on two fouls, the home side went into the first break 19-10 ahead.

The visitors scored the first four points of the second period before Owen-Thomas ended the drought with a three pointer, and the Big Cats still held a 24-18 lead at the mid-stage of the quarter.

A Baker trey made it a five point with 75 first half seconds remaining, but a timeout from Clark steadied things, and Greenan’s basket sent the Big Cats into the locker room leading 32-27.

That lead was wiped out at the start of the second half as treys from Baker and Williams in an 8-2 run saw the visitors take their second brief lead of the game.

Sharlow buried a trey to end the run, and the American point guard hit another shot from long range to put Leopards back in charge.

The hosts’ lead was seven at the midway stage of the period, and a pair of Johnson free-throws saw their advantage grow to ten going into the final two minutes of the quarter before Owen-Thomas sunk a triple to beat the buzzer and send Leopards into the final break with a 57-45 lead.

Williams opened the fourth period scoring, but Johnson replied from downtown and he hit another long range effort to give Leopards what appeared to be an unassailable 64-50 lead with six and half minutes remaining.

The lead was still in double figures with three and half minutes remaining after a Borja Pintor Henningsen trey, but the visitors chipped away at that advantage and a Lucas basket made it a six point game going into the final minute.

Marlan Henry, who had a poor shooting game with just one of his 11 field goal attempts going in, hit one of two foul shots, to make it 71-64 with 30 seconds remaining but Baker sliced that lead with a jump shot.

Johnson converted only one of four free-throws as Warriors fouled to stop the clock, and Baker drained a trey to set up a frantic final five seconds.

Henry was sent to the foul line, and although he missed both shots, some frantic defending saw Leopards hold on for the win.

Leopards: L Greenan 24, J Sharlow 13, J Johnson 12, J Owen-Thomas 10, B Pintor Henningsen 6, M Henry 6, K Cairns 1, S Espirit, S Dunscombe, R Alexis (DNP), F Adeleke (DNP), L Robertini (DNP)

5 November 2010
Flyers expect tough test

BRISTOL Academy Flyers’ coach Andreas Kapoulas expects a tough game as his side prepare to face the Leopards at Barking Abbey on Saturday.

“The Leopards game will be a big challenge for us. They are a very well coached team and over the last few weeks they have gathered plenty of experience playing at the Division One. They will be tough especially as they are playing at their home court. Winning away from home is about concentration, consistency and toughness. It will be very useful for our coaching staff to see how our players will respond this weekend.

“Last weekend was very good for our club. Getting a place in the National Cup quarter-finals and having the opportunity to defend our title is a target that we discussed with the team at the start of the year. We are improving every week and defensively we are a lot further than where we were last year. Both games last weekend it was our defence that created offence by keeping our opponents below 50 points and under 40% shooting from the field which was very pleasing to see.

“At the moment it’s very important to remain focused and keep working hard in practices to improve our team game. “

The action at Barking Abbey starts at 7 pm, and Leopards will be boosted by the news that new signing Fola Adeleke is fit for the game.

The guard/forward re-signed for the Big Cats a fortnight ago, but an ankle injury has kept him out of the victories against Brixton Topcats and Westminster Warriors.

Adeleke was a key member of the all-British Leopards team which finished fifth in Division One in 2007/8, reaching the quarter-finals of the National Cup and play-offs in the process.

5 November 2010
Trophy dream well and truly alive!

NOT content with victories against Brixton Topcats and Westminster Warriors in the last couple of weeks, Leopards completed a hat-trick of victories against London sides on Wednesday – without shooting the ball!

The Big Cats were given a 20-0 walkover against PAWS London Capital after their cross-town rivals failed to set a date for the replayed National Trophy tie.

The original game finished in a 73-56 defeat for the Big Cats, but England Basketball ordered the game to be replayed after Leopards protested that the court was incorrectly marked out. However, Capital failed to agree a date for the game, and Leopards have now been given a walkover.

“It’s not how we want to win games, we were happy to replay it – we actually like playing basketball!” said general manager Dave Ryan. “But it puts us back in the Trophy, and hopefully we’ll make the most of the reprieve.”

Leopards will now face Brixton Topcats – who also received a walkover against Capital after they failed to get their players signed in time for the opening game of the season – in the final group game, with the winner of the tie progressing to the quarters. The game will take place at Brentwood on Sunday December 19 – tip-off 4 pm.

14 November 2010
Cup dream ends for Leopards

Leopards 79 (22,34,51)
Derby Trailblazers 82 (22,37,59)

LEOPARDS saw their National Cup dreams come to an end as Division One champions Derby Trailblazers won another thriller at the Brentwood Centre.

Mark Clark’s team had trailed by 11 going into the last five minutes of Sunday’s quarter-final in front of another big crowd, but despite a fine comeback from the Big Cats, Simeon Esprit’s last gasp shot couldn’t send the game into overtime.

Josh Sharlow led the scoring for the home side with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Esprit added 19 points. Despite playing under ten minutes in the first three period due to foul trouble, seven foot centre Leigh Greenan finished with 13 points.

For Derby, Gaylor finished with 18, with Woodhouse adding 17 and Sam O’Shea 12.

Leopards began the match with a barrage of three-pointers, as Sharlow, Marlon Henry and Keelan Cairns all converted shots from beyond the arc, to help home side to a 19-11 advantage after just six minutes.

A Derby time out sparked an immediate response, with Gayle and Matt Shaw nailing a pair of threes to end the home side’s 13-4 run. Gayle was then on target again with a buzzer beating three that bounced all around the rim for what seemed like an eternity before finally dropping through the hoop, to tie the scores at 22.

The second quarter saw Leopards regularly building a four point advantage thanks to free-throws from Fola Adeleke and Josh Johnson, but a harsh unsportsmanlike call on Adeleke saw the visitors go into the locker room 37-34 ahead.

Only Esprit troubled the scorers in the first two and half minutes of the second half for Leopards, and a poor third period saw them down by eight at final break.

That lead grew to 11 when Gayle hit another trey, and the Big Cats were still down by double digits before a Greenan basket sparked a comeback.

Esprit made it a five point game going into the final two minutes when he scored from downtown, and three-from-four foul shots by Greenan saw Leopards trailing 81-79 entering the last 60 seconds.

Henry missed a jump shot, and Leopards were forced to foul Woodhouse to stop the clock. The big man missed the first but hit the second free-throw to leave Leopards needing a trey.

Esprit saw his effort rim out, and although Sharlow grabbed the rebound, he couldn’t get a shot off and Derby went into the hat for the semi-final draw.

Leopards: J Sharlow (20), S Esprit (19), L Greenan (13), M Henry (11), K Cairns (9), J Johnson (4), F Adeleke (3), J Owen-Thomas (2), R Alexis, Z Wells & D Akibo (DNP)

13 November 2010
Leopards down Rockets

Reading Rockets 61 (17,32,48) Leopards 73 (16,30,46)

A strong fourth period saw Leopards win their first ever game in Reading as the Rockets were beaten 73-61 on Saturday evening.

The Big Cats had lost their previous nine games in Berkshire, but they produced some stifling defence in the closing stanza to move up to joint fourth in the Division One table.

Mark Clark’s side trailed by six points with seven minutes remaining, but held the hosts scoreless for five minutes as they poured in 14 straight points before wrapping the win up from the foul line.

Josh Sharlow led the way for the Leopards with 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Leigh Greenan added 14 points and five boards, with Josh Johnson (12) and Simeon Esprit (10) also finishing in double figures.

Rockets’ captain Ryan Lohfink had a ten point, ten rebound double-double with Louis Sayers top scoring with 17 points and Harrison Gamble scoring 13.

There was little to choose between the teams in the opening three quarters, with the lead changing hands 13 times during those 30 minutes.

Sharlow opened the scoring with a jump shot, and with Marlan Henry hitting a trey, Leopards rushed into a 5-0 lead in the first two minutes.

Sharlow added another seven points in the period as Leopards controlled the first nine minutes, but having led 16-10 going into the final minute of the quarter, the visitors allowed Reading to close out the period with a 7-0 run to lead by one.

Greenan converted a lay-up to restore Leopards’ lead at the start of the second quarter, but Reading hit eight unanswered points as the visitors were held scoreless for four minutes.

Keelan Cairns broke the run with a three-pointer before he hit a second one from downtown, and Johnson did likewise as Leopards narrowed the gap to 32-30 going into the locker room.

Esprit buried another trey to open the second half, but in a close third period the biggest lead came with two minutes remaining when Sharlow put the visitors 44-40 ahead, but despite a pair of Sharlow free throws, Rockets closed out the period on an 8-2 run to go into the final break 48-46 ahead.

Lohfink doubled that lead with the opening shot of final quarter, and despite scores from Owen-Thomas and Greenan, a Matt Guymon trey put Reading 56-50 ahead going into the final seven minutes.

At that point Leopards noticeably stepped up their defence and Sharlow launched the streak that sealed the game for the visitors.

Repeated steals by the Big Cats saw Rockets held scoreless as two three-point plays from Greenan saw his side take a 64-56 lead.

Robbie Parker broke the run with a trey, but although Leopards struggled from the line as Reading fouled to stop the clock, the home side were restricted to four minutes in the remaining two minutes as Leopards wrapped up a second consecutive away league victory.

Leopards: J Sharlow (19), L Greenan (14), J Johnson (12), S Esprit (10), K Cairns (8), M Henry (5), J Owen-Thomas (4), F Adeleke (1), Z Wells, R Alexis & D Akibo (DNP)

12 December 2010
Ous is the man for Leopards

LEOPARDS have strengthened their roster with the addition of American forward Ousman Krubally.

The 22-year-old signed in time for Saturday’s trip to Leicester Warriors, and joins the Big Cats after an impressive career at Georgia State.

Last season saw him finish as Georgia State’s top rebounder with 5.7 boards per game and averaged seven points per game to rank fifth on the team. He had 11 double-figure scoring games, including five double-doubles on the season and scored in double figures in six of the final eight games, averaging 10.5 ppg and 5.9 rpg for that stretch.

The 6’6” forward stated 11 games during the season, including the last six, and finished his season with a career-high 19 points against Hofstra in the CAA tournament first round. He had career-high 16 points and 11 rebounds against Delaware, and was Georgia State’s nominee for the CAA’s Dean Ehlers Leadership Award.

Leopards coach Mark Clark is delighted with his new signing: “Ousman is a great fit for us, and we’ve added a great athlete who really compliments the players from the academy .

“His experience at Georgia State will really help the young players, and I am expecting Ousman to give us a presence on the boards and add real energy to our defence.”

The addition of Krubally means that the Big Cats have two imports in action for the first time since April 2007, and with nine home league games after Christmas they will be looking to push up the EBL Division One table.

The Leopards fans will get their first chance to see Ousman in action on Sunday December 19 when the Big Cats host Brixton Topcats in a must-win National Trophy game at the Brentwood Centre, tip-off 4pm.

10 January 2011
Capital victory for Leopards

Leopards 72 (22,38,56) PAWS London Capital 68 (15,31,48)

OUSMAN Krubally poured in 18 points on his home debut as Leopards moved up to third place in EBL Division One with a hard-fought victory against cross-town rivals Capital.

The Big Cats led for most of the game, but it wasn’t until the closing seconds that they wrapped up their four league win in six games.

Josh Sharlow finished with a 17 point, ten rebound double-double, adding four assists and three steals, while Josh Johnson had probably his best game as a Leopard with 11 points and six assists.

Charlando Brown led the Capital scoring for the second time against Leopards this season, finishing with 19 points, with Kaleston Wood adding 12 for a visiting team who arrived 15 minutes after the scheduled tip-off time.

The game was won on the boards, with Leopards out-rebounding the visitors 45-25, Leigh Greenan pulling down 13 rebounds to go with his eight points.

Cairns opened the scoring, and Irish big-man also hit a trey as the Big Cats opened strongly to lead 9-2 at the five minute mark.

Krubally – who only played 21 minutes due to foul trouble – made it a nine point game before Capital rallied, and with Wood hitting two of three foul shots after an unnecessary foul from Krubally, they closed the gap to 22-15 at the first break.

Chiedozie Offiah, who played a couple of summer league games for Leopards six years ago, opened the second quarter scoring for the visitors but with Krubally converting an and-one, the Big Cats remained comfortably ahead, and a Sharlow free-throw sent them into the locker room 38-31 ahead at half-time.

Capital hit the first five points of the second half to make it a two-point game before Sharlow grabbed Marlan Henry’s missed shot and converted a lay-up to double the lead.

Krubally kept the lead at four, but Brown made it a one point game at the five minute mark when he sunk a trey before scores from Greenan and Krubally put the Big Cats back in charge as they reached the final break 56-48 ahead. Brown continued to be his side’s main offensive threat as he opened the fourth period scoring, and although Johnson replied, a Jamal Felix basket off Brown’s assist gave Capital the lead for the first time in the game, 59-5 with 6:11 remaining.

Offiah doubled that lead from foul line before Greenan levelled the score, and the teams were still level heading into the final 110 seconds. Greenan broke the tie with a single free-throw, only for Felix to do likewise with exactly a minute left.

A Josh Clark foul with 44 second left sent Cairns to the line where he coolly sunk both charity shots. Wood missed a three-point effort, and after both sides had called timeouts, the visitors were forced to foul Sharlow. The American point guard hit both free-throws to put Leopards four up, and Johnson grabbed Brown’s missed three-pointer to seal the Big Cats’ win.

O Krubally 18, J Sharlow 17, J Johnson 11, L K Cairns 9,Greenan 8, M Henry 5, S Esprit 1, Z Wells, S Dunscombe, R Alexis, M Adomaitis (DNP)

13 January 2011
Clark happy with weekend’s work

AFTER a weekend which saw his team split their two games, Leopards coach Mark Clark was a reasonably happy man.

The Big Cats defeated PAWS London Capital 72-68 at the Brentwood Centre on Friday night before losing another tight game 84-81 at Durham Wildcats the following day.

“Against Capital, I was really pleased that we showed great belief in each other to beat a tough team in a tight game. The young players made valuable contributions without Borja Pintor-Henningsen and with Simeon [Esprit] injured. “At Durham on Saturday, we played a great game against a very good team that has lots of offensive weapons. We showed again that we are progressing and Ouse [Ousman Krubally] demonstrated what a great asset he will be. The performance of Josh Johnson and Josh Sharlow showed great ability and tremendous character with the demands of the back to back games.”

The Big Cats return to action at 4pm on Sunday afternoon when Brixton Topcats are the visitors to the Brentwood Centre for a key National Trophy game.

Clark’s team will be without shooting guard Josh Owen-Thomas for the rest of the season after the youngster returned to Australia. If he’d played for Leopards in 2011 he would have lost a year’s eligibility of college basketball in The States, due to the NCAA’s complex rules.

16 January 2011
Leopards in the last eight

Leopards 91 (14,35,63) Brixton Topcats 77 (17,37,52)

LEOPARDS powered their way into the National Trophy quarter-finals with a 91-77 victory against Brixton Topcats, on Sunday.

The Brentwood Centre crowd were treated to one of the best individual performances ever from a Big Cat as Ousman Krubally came off the bench to finish with 31 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

Mark Clark’s team will now travel to Division One leaders Bristol Academy Flyers next Sunday where they will face a team who have lost only once in 17 games this season.

Leigh Greenan also recorded a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, with Marlan Henry adding a season-high 14 points and seven assists, and Josh Sharlow chipping in with 13 points.

Karolis Petkus led the visitors with 17 points, with Dave Ajumobi adding 14 and Paul Mundy-Castle and Marcus Knight each chipping in with 11 points.

The game was won on the boards, with Leopards out-rebounding the Topcats 50-35, although with Petkus coming up with four steals the visitors did force Clark’s side into 23 turnovers.

The visitors started strongly, with Ajumobi capping a 7-0 run, and it took until the 5:51 mark for Greenan to get them off the mark.

Six straight Krubally points dragged Leopards back into the game as they took a 10-9 lead following an 8-0 run, but it was the visitors who went into the first break with a 20-17 lead despite Krubally taking his tally to ten with the final basket of the quarter.

Krubally opened the second period scoring, and he scored Leopards’ first seven points of the quarter as they regained the lead at 21-19 after two minutes.

Neither side were able to pull away, though, with the biggest lead coming with 5:25 on the clock when Krubally converted off Sharlow’s assist.

But Brixton hit back with nine unanswered points capped by a trey from former Leopard Paul Mundy-Castle, and although Josh Johnson scored the final points of the half from the free-throw stripe, it was Brixton who went into the locker room with a 37-35 lead.

The second half proved to be a long-winded affair as it took 71 minutes to complete with 47 fouls called and 72 trips to the foul line.

The third period was crucial as the visitors were outscored 28-15, but after a tight start it wasn’t until the 5:33 mark that Sharlow gave Leopards a 43-42 lead – and they never trailed again.

Six unanswered points capped by a pair at the line by Krubally put Leopards 55-47 up going into the final two minutes of the quarter, and eight straight points from Henry sent them into the final break 63-52 ahead.
Much of the fourth period was spent at the foul line as five Topcats along with Sharlow and Simeon Esprit fouled out of the game, but the visitors were never able to make any real inroad into the deficit.

Tom Adorian made it a nine point game with 7:43 left when he converted a three-point play following a Greenan foul and Ladi Brown made it 75-70 with two minutes left only for Avelino Antonio to pick up a technical foul and the Big Cats wrapped the victory up from the foul line.

Leopards: Krubally (31), Greenan (16), M Henry (14), J Sharlow (13), J Johnson (8), S Esprit (3), B Pintor-Henningsen (3), K Cairns (3), L Olanyi, Z Wells, R Alexis (DNP), R Teixeira (DNP)

23 January 2011
Leopards through to semi-finals

Bristol Academy Flyers 56 (16,27,41)
Leopards 78 (21,41,54)

A superb defensive performance from the Big Cats saw them power their way into the National Trophy semi-final, where they will now travel to Reading Rockets.

Mark Clark, Leopards’ coach, was a happy man after a weekend which has also seen his side take the Division One points with an overtime victory at Coventry Crusaders:

“I’m really happy with the way we are working as a group. The performances from Keelan [Cairns] and Simeon [Esprit] at the weekend are an indication that we are beginning to understand as a group how to integrate Ousman [Krubally] into the team so we get better as a group.

“I’m also pleased with the way both our guards Josh Johnson and Josh Sharlow are leading the team.

Even though we got away with the overtime win in Coventry it still showed that as group we are really beginning to trust each other.

“In addition the increased roles of Ryan Alexis and Dominic Norton, Lucky Olanyi and Zak Wells showed what a good development the relationship between Leopards and Barking Abbey is. The investment that the school, through our head teacher and Director of Sport, is another demonstration of what can be achieved with the right investment and the right funding models.”

Krubally led the Big Cats for the fifth straight game, finishing with 26 points, off 10-from-14 shooting, and 12 rebounds. After a quiet night in Coventry, Cairns stepped up to hit 20 points and add seven boards, with Johnson adding 13 as Leopards reached the final four of the Trophy for the second time in three years.

An 8-0 run from the hosts saw them take an 11-7 lead, but the visitors fought back to lead 21-16 at the first break, but that advantage was sliced to 26-25 with four and a half minutes left in the second half.

At that point the visitors stepped up with some excellent defence, and held the visitors to just one points during the rest of the half, and with Krubally doing the damage inside and Cairns scoring from long range, they poured in 16 points to lead 41-27 at half-time.

The onslaught continued in the second half, and Johnson scored from long range to make it 50-32 with 6:32 on the clock, and a Krubally basket made it a 20-point game at the mid-stage of the thirdp period.

A timeout from Bristol coach Andreas Kapoulas saw the home side tighten up their defence, and they cut the Big Cats’ lead to 54-41 at the final break.

Borja Pintor-Henningsen opened the fourth period with a big three-pointer for the visitors, and the margin never got below 14 as Leopards wrapped up the win, allowing coach Clark to run the bench in the closing stages.

Doug McLaughlin-Williams led a Bristol side missing Greg Streete with 16 points and seven boards. Tyrone Treasure added 13 points, while Davis Bowne had a 12 point, ten rebound double-double.

Leopards: O Krubally 26, K Cairns 20, J Johnson 13, L Olaniyi 5, J Sharlow 4, B Pintor-Henningsen 3, S Esprit 3, D Norton 2, L Greenan 2, R Alexis, Z Wells

22 January 2011
Leopards win it in overtime

Coventry Crusaders 76 (20,34,52,71)
Leopards 83 (23,44,53,71)
After overtime

LEOPARDS moved up to joint third in EBL Division One with an overtime win at Coventry Crusaders, on Saturday.

They did it the hard way, letting a ten point half-time lead slip away against the strugglers, before dominating in the extra period.

Ousman Krubally led the scoring for Mark Clark’s team for the fourth straight game with 26 points, half of which came in the final three minutes of the first period.

Josh Johnson continued his good post-Christmas form with 14 points, with Leigh Greenan adding 12 and Simeon Esprit 11. For the home side, big man Casey Crawford proved unstoppable at times with 33 points, but was given little support as only Siman Stewart and Roy Owen joined him in double figures with ten apiece.

Stewart opened the scoring for the hosts, but Greenan hit a free-throw to spark a 5-0 run from the visitors.

A pair of massive treys from Crawford helped the home side take a 16-10 lead before Krubally came of the bench to join the action, and the American forward scored all of the Leopards remaining points as they went into the first break 23-20 ahead.

Borja Pintor Henningsen opened the second period scoring for the Big Cats, and a trey from Ryan Alexis kept them ahead as they reached the midway stage in the quarter 30-26 ahead.

The visitors led throughout the quarter, with Keelan Cairns also converting from downtown, and a single free-throw from Greenan sent them into the locker room with a 44-34 half-time lead.

The third quarter again proved to be Leopards’ Achilles heal as they saw their lead all but wiped out, scoring just nine points.

Crusaders scored the six of the first eight points, but baskets from Greenan and Johnson restored the visitors lead, but they poor shot selection saw them fail to score a field goal in the final five minutes of the quarter as Coventry went on an 11-3 run.

Scores from Martyn Gayle and Crawford opened the fourth period as Crusaders took their first lead since the eighth minute, but having scored only three points in the middle two quarter, Krubally burst back into life with five points in a 7-2 Leopards run which them saw take a 60-59 lead with five minutes of regulation time left.

Payne buried a trey to put Crusaders back in the lead, only for Esprit and Cairns to both convert from the Land of Plenty to put Leopards 66-62 heading into the final three minutes.

But while Crusaders have only one win this season, but have been involved in plenty of close games, and they hit back with six unanswered points to take a 68-66 lead into the final 90 seconds.

Esprit hit a pair at the line to tie things at 68 with 40 seconds remaining, but Casey looked to have won the game with 21 seconds left when he converted an and-one after a spin move saw him fouled by Greenan.

A timeout from coach Clark followed, and it was Krubally who sent the game into overtime with eight seconds left as he drained a trey from the top of the key before some tough defence saw Crusaders fail to get off a shot at the end of regulation time.

Casey opened the overtime scoring, but that proved to be Crusaders only points until the final minutes, and six-from-eight foul shooting by Johnson together with baskets from Greenan and Krubally put the Big Cats 81-73 up going into the final minute. Casey hit his third trey of the game, but Josh Sharlow wrapped things up at the line as Leopards collected their fifth win in eight league games.

Leopards: O Krubally 26, J Johnson 14, L Greenan 12, S Esprit 11, J Sharlow 6, S Esprit 6, B Pintor Henningsen 5, R Alexis 4, D Norton, L Olaniyi (DNP)
28 February 2011
Crusaders disappointment for Leopards

COVENTRY Crusaders have become the latest team to bite the dust after the announcement that they have resigned from EBL Division One. The Crusaders had been members of the EBL for 23 years, but head coach Roger Payne who was bankrolling them this season has run out of funds after the club was unable to attract a sponsor for the remaining of the season.

The withdrawal of the Crusaders means that Leopards two wins against them are deleted from the record, a fate which also befalls league leaders Bristol Academy Flyers and fourth placed Durham Wildcats. Second placed Reading Rockets and fifth placed Leeds Carnegie also lose a win each having only played them once.

Of particular disappointment to the Big Cats will be that they paid out for an overnight stop following the Crusaders game as they were in action at Bristol the following day.

30 March 2011
Leopards aim for play-off glory

BA London Leopards v Durham Wildcats
Sunday April 3, 4.00 pm, Brentwood Centre

League record: Leopards 14-4; Wildcats 7-11
Full record: Leopards 19-8; Wildcats 9-16
Head-to-head: Leopards 1 Wildcats 1

IT’S a battle of the cats at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday afternoon as Leopards host Durham Wildcats in the play-off quarter-finals.

The home side will be looking to build on their highest ever league finish – second – while for Wildcats it’s a chance to repeat last season’s success when they added the Division Two play-off crown to the regular season title.

Leopards coach Mark Clark is looking for his side to move on after a mentally draining weekend which saw them produce big comebacks in their wins against Manchester Magic and Derby Trailblazers before hearing the news that they hadn’t won the league while travelling home from the midlands:

“It has been a great regular season for the programme a lot of young players have really stepped up. It was disappointing that we could not clinch the title but Bristol over the season have come through their own injury problems and won some huge games to secure the title.

“Now our focus moves to the play-offs and Durham are a very dangerous team, who can score in a hurry, they have great perimeter threat. We will take the beginning of week lightly to recover from the weekend but will be ready to play the defence we need to make the Final Four. It will be a packed house at Brentwood on Sunday and we plan to get our up tempo game on the floor.”

Wildcats coach Dave Elderkin – who was general manager at the original Leopards – knows the task facing his side at Brentwood: “I think they have had a really good season. I like the youth element to their side, and [Leigh] Greenan has got real potential. Without a doubt, [Ousman] Krubally is one of the finds of the year. In our practices this week, and we’re hoping to add a third one because of the importance of the game, we’ll be figuring out a way to top him getting inside. That’s the key to playing against him. They have a guard who brings the ball up at about 200 miles per hour, and by no means are they a one-man team.

“We have Reading a decent game on Saturday, and we gave Leopards a decent game at our place. Obviously we want to do better than last time we went there. Paul Nelson is back and Pape should be available. Colm Hicky is abroad, but the big loss is Chris Pearce. He’s threatening to try to train later this week, so we’ll see how it goes.

“Leopards have got a good coach and a good team, but upsets still happen in the play-offs. It’s a very even league and we’ll be aiming to cause the upset. We have a chance, and we have to take it.”

The teams split their regular season games, with the home side taking advantage of their undermanned visitors on each occasion.

When the sides met for the first time in the north east, Leopards led at each of the three quarter breaks, but were outlasted by Durham who ran out 84-81 winners.

Paul Elderkin led the home side with 22 points, Kevin Bulger (16) Paul Nelson (11) and Michael Davies (10) also finishing in double figures. Leopards were led by Krubally’s 23 points, with Greenan adding 20 Josh Johnson and Josh Sharlow 13 apiece and Keelan Cairns hit four treys to finish with 12 points.

In the return at Brentwood, Leopards made it four straight wins with a 75-60 victory as Krubally continued his fine season with 30 points and 19 rebounds in a game that Leopards took control of in the third period.

Krubally was perfect inside the arc, hitting all 14 of his two-point efforts, and teenager Simeon Esprit added 14 points, three blocks and as many assists for the Leopards, with Josh Sharlow chipping in 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Leigh Greenan missed a double-double by a single point having pulled down 12 boards. Kevin Bulger led the visitors with 22 points, with Michael Davies and Stephen Jones each adding ten.

29 January 2011
Leopards make history in Manchester

Manchester Magic 78 (20,31,48) Leopards 93 (19,45,69)

OUSMAN Krubally poured in 30 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in under 24 minutes of action as London Leopards won their fifth straight game with an 93-78 victory at Manchester Magic.

Mark Clark’s side trailed 24-22 two minutes into the second period before going on an 18-2 run, and they never looked back.

Leigh Greenan finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, with guards Josh Johnson (11 points, nine assists and six rebounds) and Josh Sharlow (nine points, eight assists, four rebounds and four steals) also lighting up the stat-sheet.

It was the first time in nine attempts that the Big Cats had won at the Amaechi Centre, and they remain in joint second place in EBL Division One.

Keith Page led the Magic with 23 points, including 12 from beyond the arc, and seven assists, while Ryan McAdam finished with a 20 point, 11rebound double-double in 36 minutes. James Warwick made his Magic debut against one of his former clubs, and he finished with ten points in 22 minutes.

The game was won on the boards, with the visitors out-rebounding Magic 45-29 while Jeff Jones’ side had no answer to Krubally as he hit 12 of his 15 field goal attempts.

Greenan opened the scoring, and after a tight start the visitors were still 10-9 ahead in the mid-stage of the quarter.

That grew to 12-9 after a pair of Greenan free-throws, but despite the introduction of Krubally it was the home side who closed out the period strongly to lead 20-19 at the first break.

Alan Metcalfe made it a three point game with the first score of the second quarter and despite Marlan Henry tying things at 22, Ambokile Bell restored Magic’s lead with a jump shot.

That proved to be the last time Magic were in the lead as Krubally hit a pair of baskets of Sharlow assists, and the home side were held scoreless for six and half minutes.

Johnson wrapped up the tear with a trey, before Page hit a single free-throw to end the run, but it was Leopards who scored the final points of the half as Sharlow drained from downtown to send his team into the locker room 45-31 ahead.

That lead never dipped below 13 in the third period, and a 10-0 run capped by a trey from Keelan Cairns saw Leopards go 58-35 up four minutes into the quarter.

They were still 23 ahead with two minutes remaining in the third following a Krubally drive to the basket, and despite a pair of Warwick free-throws, the Big Cats went into the final break 69-48 ahead.

Henry made it a 24 point game when he opened the final period with a trey, and Magic could only shave a point of that deficit in the first five minutes of the quarter as the Leopards picked up their fifth away win in seven league games.

Leopards: O Krubally (30), L Greenan (18), J Johnson (11), J Sharlow (9), K Cairns (9), M Henry (8), B Pintor Henningsen (5), S Esprit (3), R Broadmore (DNP)

12 February 2011
Semi-final heartbreak for Leopards

Reading Rockets 62 (6,25,37,54) London Leopards 60 (11,21,41,54)

LEOPARDS’ National Trophy dreams ended at the last four stage as went down in overtime, on Saturday.

Thirty-two turnovers to the home team’s 13 proved to be the difference as the Big Cats foul victim to a series of bizarre calls, including at least eight three-second calls and some obscure travelling violations.

After a poor game against the Rockets at Brentwood last week, Ousman Krubally was back to his best, finishing with 23 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes.

On a night when both sides would have struggled to hit the ocean, the rest of the Leopards’ scoring was shared around with Keelan Cairns, Simeon Esprit, Josh Sharlow, Josh Johnson and Leigh Greenan all finishing with seven points each.

Cairns and Greenan finished with 12 and 11 boards respectively as Leopards out-rebounded the home side 48-23, while in the absence of the injured Marlan Henry, Sharlow played all 45 minutes.

Niko Scott led the home side with 21 points and six rebounds, with Ryan Lohfink adding 13 points and five boards, while Matt Guymon and Will Hall finished with 11 points apiece.

Scott opened the scoring, but an early indication of the low scoring that was to follow, saw the Big Cats lead 3-2 at the five minute mark as Greenan hit a free-throw and Cairns drained a long jump shot.

However that launched an 11-2 run that put the visitors 11-4 going into the final minute of the period. Krubally finished the run, and with Robbie Parker hitting a basket for Reading, it was the Leopards who went into the first break 11-6 ahead.

Krubally drained a trey to open the second period, but Borja Pintor-Henningsen picked up three fouls in less than a minute before Krubally made it a nine point game with 55 seconds gone.

That proved to be the last time the Big Cats scored for over six minutes as Reading poured in eight straight points, including three from four foul shooting after Leopards coach Mark Clark had picked up a technical.

Sharlow eventually ended the run, but at the visitors wracked up the fouls, Reading regained the lead on a Lohfink basket going into the final two minutes of the half and Scott drained a three-pointer as the home side went into the locker room 25-21 ahead.

With Krubally and Greenan being called for three-second violations in the space of 20 seconds, Matt Guymon made it a seven point game with another shot from downtown.

Six straight Krubally points dragged the visitors back into the game before Johnson converted an and-one to put Leopards 32-30 at the midway stage of the third period.

Lukas Aleksandravicius put Reading back in front with a trey, but it was Leopards who went into the fourth period 41-37 ahead as Johnson drained a shot from downtown.

Lohfink opened the fourth quarter with a jump shot, but the visitors led throughout the period without ever pulling away.

Lohfink made it a one point game at the six minute mark, but Cairns replied with a trey and Leopards were still 54-51 ahead with 80 seconds remaining before Lohfink hit a three with 1:06 on the clock to send the game into overtime.

Krubally scored the first point of the extra period after 53 seconds, but that was to be the last time the visitors led as Will Hall put Reading in the lead with 3:46 remaining.

Guymon hit another big three, but four from four foul shots by Krubally tied the game at 59 with a minute remaining.

The winning shot came from Scott and he converted an and-one with nine seconds remaining, but there was still drama as Scott was called for an intentional foul on Johnson with five seconds left.

The young guard converted one of the two foul shots, but Leopards failed to get off a decent shot as Reading progressed to the title game.

26 March 2011
Comeback win for Leopards

Leopards 90 (19,37,65) Manchester Magic 85 (15,50,68)

A 31 point, 22 rebound double-double from Ousman Krubally helped the Big Cats record a come-from-behind 90-85 victory against Magic on Saturday evening.

Keith Page opened the scoring for the visitors, and with only Cairns troubling the scorers in opening minutes, the Leopards fell behind 7-2 before Krubally grabbed an offensive board and scored to double their tally.

Scores from Page and Ryan McAdam saw Magic lead 14-6 at the five minute mark before Leopards finally woke up and a Krubally basket launched a an 11-0 run to close out the period with a 19-15 lead.

Magic scored the first five points of the second period, and Mark Clark’s team were outscored 35-19 in the second period capped by a Page basket to trail 50-37 going into the locker room.

Johnson opened the second half scoring with a trey, and they scored the first 11 points of the third period capped by a Krubally dunk to make it a four point game after three minutes.

Page broke the run with Magic’s first score of the half, but with Esprit hitting his second trey of the game, the home side reduced the arrears to 68-65 going into the final break.

An and-one from Greenan tied the score at 68 with a minute gone, and Krubally kept Leopards within a point of the visitors with five minutes remaining.

Coach Clark called a timeout with 2:37 on the clock and his team trailing 84-81, and Sharlow hit a trey out of the break to level the score.

Magic only scored one more point as Leopards closed out their eighth straight win as Cairns and Sharlow converted at the foul line.

Five players finished in double figures for the home team, with Johnson adding 14 and Esprit 12. Greenan had an 11 point, 13 rebound double-double, while Josh Sharlow followed suite with 11 points and ten assists.

Keith Page (28) and Ryan McAdam (24) did the bulk of the Magic scoring with Alan Metcalf adding 14.

Leopards: O Krubally (31), J Johnson (14), S Esprit (12) L Greenan (11), J Sharlow (11), K Cairns (9), Z Wells (2), D Norton, L Olanyi (DNP), B Pintor Henningsen (DNP)

28 March 2011
Praise for Leopards ahead of play-off clash

LEOPARDS general manager Dave Ryan had praise for the Big Cats after they sealed the runner-up spot in EBL Division One with a pair of wins over the weekend.

They overcame big deficits in both games to win 90-85 against Manchester Magic and 88-84 in overtime at Derby Trailblazers, but Bristol Academy Flyers’ win at Brixton Topcats ended their title chances.

“I’m proud of our guys” said Ryan, “We’ve got the best player in the league in Ousman Krubally, but we’re also got a lot of kids. And in the last few weeks we’ve shown that we WILL NOT lose. We’re starting three teenagers, and they deserve so much credit. As do the likes of Leigh Greenan and Josh Sharlow as well.

“The decision to work with Barking Abbey’s basketball academy has paid off massively, and it’s great to see the Leopards back challenging for honours. We’ve got the play-offs to come, and Durham won’t be easy, but we’re definitely in with a shout. It’s just about this season, either, we’re building a long-term sustainable programme that will always be challenging for honours.”

Leopards will wrap up their home season on Sunday when Durham Wildcats visit the Brentwood Centre in the play-off quarter-finals, tip-off 4 pm. The north east side were one of four sides to beat the Leopards in Division One games this season, but Mark Clark’s side gained revenge with a 75-60 home win a month ago.

The Big Cats are expecting their biggest crowd of the season as they look to qualify for the Final Four in Manchester.

5 April 2011
Leopards through to final four

A 77-68 victory against Durham Wildcats sealed Leopards’ place in the EBL Division One Final Four, on Sunday afternoon.

In front of a packed house at the Brentwood Centre, Leopards led from tip-to-buzzer to chalk up their tenth straight victory.

The Big Cats will play Reading Rockets in the semi-final at the Amaechi Centre on Saturday April 16, with the winner facing either Bristol Academy Flyers or Leeds in the final the following day.

A Greenan basket eight seconds into the game gave Mark Clark’s side a lead they never lost, but it wasn’t until the final minute that a stubborn Wildcats side were finally put away.

Foul trouble caused problems for the Big Cats throughout the game, with Greenan and Ousman Krubally combining for just 41 minutes as they led the scoring with 18 points apiece. Krubally added seven rebounds at each end for another double-double, with Greenan was one of three players to finish with nine rebounds.

Josh Johnson finished with 14 points and nine boards, and Josh Sharlow added nine points, nine rebounds and six assists.

Coach Clark was understandably delighted after the game: “It is great for everyone involved to be making the trip to Manchester.

We again showed what a resilient group we are. We came out really strong and were the aggressor early and built the early lead. We always knew that Durham were going to be tough and they refused to lie down and when they closed it to a two point game we were asked serious questions – especially as Ouse had already fouled out.

“Josh Sharlow again as he has for the last few weeks showed great leadership and Leigh Greenan after a difficult last few weeks with injury played hard in the last five minutes.

On a day when lots of great Leopards memories were recounted as original Leopards owners Ed and Annie-T Simons were at the game this organisation has given itself the chance to create some of its own memories.

“It is almost surprising that in a season that has been so competitive that the top four made to Manchester. It will be a great weekend with the best four teams looking to win a championship we will simply get back to work on Monday and prepare to bring our best performance to the Amaechi Centre.”

Greenan’s opening score sparked a strong start to the game as Leopards scored the first seven points of the game, including a trey from Keelan Cairns, and they led 14-2 at midway stage of the first period.

But the visitors showed that they wouldn’t lie down, and Paul Nelson launched a 6-2 run for the Wildcats, and despite a Sharlow trey, Durham cut the lead to 21-14 going into the first break.

Simeon Esprit opened the second period scoring off a Johnson assist, but there was little to choose between the teams in the quarter as they shared 40 points.

The lead grew to ten with a Johnson trey off Dominic Norton’s assist, and a single free-throw from Krubally made a 13 point game going into the final three minutes of the half before Paul Elderkin’s trey helped the visitors close out the half of a 10-4 run to make it 41-34 going into the locker room.

Kevin Bulger made it a five point game to open the third period, but scores from Krubally and Greenan kept Leopards in front and another Cairns trey made it 50-41 with five minutes gone.

Greenan made it 54-43 with 3:22 on the clock, but Wildcats again closed out the period strongly on a 7-2 run to cut Leopards’ lead to 56-50 at the final break.

That run was stretched to 11-2 as Michael Davies and Chris Pearce scored baskets to make it a two point game.

Krubally picked up his fourth foul with 7:46 on the clock and left the game two minutes later on a dubious offensive call with the Big Cats clinging on to a 60-56 lead. Greenan made it a five point game with as many minutes remaining, but with three minutes remaining it was 63-59 to the Leopards, with Esprit joining Krubally on the bench after two quick fouls.

Nelson made it a three point game from the foul line, but scores from Johnson and Sharlow – after a Greenan steal – put the hosts 67-60 up with 80 seconds remaining. It was Greenan who scored the killer basket with 47 seconds on the clock to put his side up by ten and then completed the three point play, and although Bulger hit a trey, the Big Cats wrapped up their place in the semi-final from the foul line.

Nelson led the Wildcats with 17 points, with Paul Elderkin adding 14, Bulger 13 and Pearce 11, but the hosts’ 49-26 rebounding advantage proved key.

7 April 2011
Semi final boost for Leopards

LEOPARDS have received a boost ahead of their play-off semi-final against Reading Rockets with the news that Simeon Esprit will not be banned for the game.

The young English forward was ejected in our final regular season game, at Derby Trailblazers, for leaving the bench following an altercation on the court.

However, at a disciplinary hearing at England Basketball on Wednesday, he was given only seven penalty points, and is free to join up with the Big Cats at the Amaechi Centre on April 16.

10 April 2011
Ousman and JJ win awards

LAST Sunday’s awards night at the Brentwood Centre saw Ousman Krubally and Josh Johnson win the Leopards MVP and Young Player of the Year trophies.

The award for Ousman will come as no surprise as the Georgia, Atlanta born player finished with the top ranking in EBL Division One. He averaged 22.14 points and 12.07 rebounds per game and is one of the front-runners for the league MVP awards. He was the second highest scorer and leading rebounder in Division One, as well as having the second best shooting percentage.

Things weren’t quite so clear-cut in the young player category, with Simeon Esprit and Keelan Cairns also featuring in the voting, but Josh’s late season form proved vital. He was one of three players to feature in all 18 league games, finishing the season with 11.1 points, 3.7 assists and five rebounds per game. His 39.4% three-point shooting saw him finish joint fourth in the league.

15 April 2011
Clark looks for final victory

LEOPARDS coach Mark Clark is looking for his side to round off a successful season by lifting the EBL Play-off title on at the weekend.

The Big Cats play Reading Rockets at the Amaechi Centre on Saturday, with the winner facing either Leeds Carnegie or Division One champions Bristol Academy Flyers on Sunday.

Clark’s team head into the season finale on a ten game winning streak, and have won 22 of their 30 games in all competitions this season as they took the Division One runners-up spot.

However, three of those losses have come against the Rockets, and Clark is expecting a tough game: “From the four games so far I expect Reading to be well prepared they always do a great job preparing for their opponents. They always ask questions with their defence which is something we have to counter.

“They are obviously deep with good quality players making contributions from the bench, it is good to see Mat Guymon coming through in the second half of the season. He has always been a player with potential and knowledge to play at a high level and he is showing that now. You can not look at Reading without focusing in Niko Scott. He has been their leading scorer all year but just concentrating on him will only let the others hurt you.

“As with every game we have played this year this semi is about our performance, executing our game. If we can impose our tempo we will be happy. It is always about the group for us and with every single member important to that group we always find a way to compete. We have had a lot of very close games this year and we now trust and believe each other and the system we have on the floor. We will try and do that and it will up to Reading to try and counter us.

“We will not be changing anything. Our Barking Abbey players have been fundamental to our success their roles alongside Josh Sharlow, Ousman [Krubally], Leigh [Greenan] and Borja Pintor-Henningsen behind the leadership of Marlan Henry has enabled us to play at a high tempo and to try and entertain our fans. That is what will we be doing in Manchester.”

21 April 2011
Disappointing end for Leopards

BA London Leopards 69 (12,36,51) Reading Rockets 80 (17,34,58)

LEOPARDS saw their play-off dreams end at the Amaechi Centre as poor free-throw shooting cost them.

Ousman Krubally hit 12 of his 13 efforts at the foul line, but the rest of the team combined for just seven from 23 as Leopards suffered their fifth semi-final defeat in the last three years.

Krubally led the Leopards with 21 points and 15 boards, with Leigh Greenan adding 14 and Josh Sharlow 11.

Led by 22 points from Robbie Parker, 18 from Niko Scott and 16 from Will Hall, Rockets reached the title game for the second time in three years and hammered Leeds Carnegie 88-63 in the season’s finale on Sunday afternoon.

Rockets won the tip, and after both sides had come up short, Jon May gave Reading the lead before Josh Sharlow answered at the other end.

Robbie Parker made it 7-2 to Reading with a trey, but Greenan replied from the foul line before Sharlow was forced to sit down on two foul after just three minutes.

That lead grew to nine as Lohfink hit a pair at the line and Scott scored on the break forcing a timeout from Leopards’ coach Mark Clark with 5:12 on the clock.

Reading’s lead grew to 13 as Sharlow collected a third foul at the offensive end before Krubally ended Leopards’ drought with a pair at the line.

Sharlow made it a single digit game with a long jumper, and Borja Pintor-Henningsen hit two of four at the line to make it a seven point game going into the last minute of the period.

Krubally also hit a pair as Leopards stretched their run to 8-0 forcing a timeout by Reading coach Samit Nuruzade and his side went into the first break leading 17-12.

Scores from Krubally and Greenan opened the second period scoring before the former gave Leopards their first lead of the game.

Josh Johnson made it a 16-0 run for Leopards and Greenan added to the Leopards’ lead with four points to make it 24-17 with 6:26 on the clock, forcing a Rockets timeout.

Scott broke the 20-0 run but scores from Johnson and Greenan kept Leopards’ noses in front, and Marlan Henry made it 30-22 with a scoop shot and three minutes left in the half.

A massive Scott trey off Guymon’s shot cut that lead but despite Greenan answering it was Rockets who finished strongly as and Johnson’s single free-throw sent the Big Cats into the locker room 36-34 ahead.

Krubally opened the second half with an and-one to make it a five point game, but Scott answered with a long jumper and a 6-0 run put Rockets ahead by one.

Krubally joined compatriot Sharlow on three fouls as he was also called for an offensive charge, and a pair of Scott free-throws put Reading 46-42 up with four minutes of the period remaining.

A lovely Sharlow pass set Johnson up to hit a trey to make it a one point game but a Guymont trey put Rockets up by six.

Pintor-Henningsen kept the Big Cats in the game with a big trey but it was Rockets who led 58-51 at the final break.

Parker opened the fourth period with a drive to basket as he was left un-guarded and Krubally picked up his fourth – and second offensive – foul shortly afterwards.

Two Krubally free-throws and a steal and two from Sharlow made it a five point game before Krubally eat the shot clock to hit a trey from the top of the key.

Rockets were up by 64-60 at the five minute mark before Will Hall was sent to the line where he hit both shots to put his team six up and force a Leopards’ time-out.

The move made little difference as Parker made it a 9-0 run to put Rockets 70-60 ahead, before Krubally hit a pair at the line to make it a eight point game with 3:25 on the clock.

A May trey as the clock wound down proved to be the dagger in the heart for Leopards as the Big Cats called a timeout with Reading 73-62 up and 2:48 on the clock.

Krubally fouled out with 2:22 left, and Rockets were left to seal their place in the title game as they ran down the clock.

Leopards: O Krubally (21), L Greenan (14), J Sharlow (11), J Johnson (8), M Henry (5), B Pintor-Henningsen (5), S Esprit (3), K Cairns (2), D Norton, Z Wells, R Alexis (DNP), L Olaniyi (DNP).

25 April 2011
Awards for Leopards

LEOPARDS players were among the top in the two EBL Division Ones following the announcement of the end-of-season awards last week.

Niamh Dwyer won player-of-the-year in the women’s division, and also collected the leading scorers’ award, while Ousman Krubally finished in both categories.

Despite only six wins in 21 league for the young Leopards women’s team, Dwyer was one of the standout offensive players this season, averaging 22.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and a fourth-best four assists per game.

Meanwhile Krubally was edged out by a single vote in the player-of-year poll as Reading Rockets’ Niko Scott took the award.

He also went agonisingly close in the scoring award as Leeds Carnegie’s Adrian Fenyn finished with 22.5 points per game to Krubally’s 22.39.

The 23-year-old American forward did take the rebounding award with a massive 13.22 boards per game and also had the highest ranking per game which takes account of the four main statistical categories.

“We’d like to congratulate Niamh, it’s great for the women to have the MVP for the second straight year, but we feel a bit sorry for Ousman, to be honest” admitted Leopards general manager Dave Ryan.

“I think he was the best player in Division One, and it would have been nice for him to finish with a trophy. I guess that Scott being here all year, and Ous only joining in December made the difference.”

Ryan confirmed that the Big Cats are in talks to retain Krubally for the 2011/12 season: “We’ve made Ous an offer, and we’re hopeful that he’ll be back with us. We face a lot of competition, though, as his stats were outstanding.”

Krubally wasn’t the only Leopard in the leading stats at the season’s end. Fellow American Josh Sharlow dished out 4.3 assists per game to finish third in the league, with English point guard Josh Johnson adding 3.25 assists to finish eighth as well as being the second most accurate three point shooter in the division.

Leigh Greenan was the seventh highest rebounder in the league with 8.34 boards per game, while Krubally and Greenan finished third ad fourth respectively in two-point field goal percentage.

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