2019 – Leopards win thriller at Storm
Leopards fought back from 13 points down at the final break to win a thriller 101-99 at Hemel Storm, on Saturday. The victory was the Big Cat’s 11th league win in the last 14 games and saw them gain revenge for a heart-breaking one-point National Trophy loss at the same venue in January.
Thomas Baker’s team trailed by two heading into the final 12 seconds but Findlay Wood hit a big three pointer to put Leopards up by one. Some great defence from the visitors saw Hemel turn the ball over and they sent Asante Sandiford to the foul line where he hit both free-throws to make it a three point game.
After Sandiford was adjudged to have fouled Treyvonn Wright, Hemel had the ball under Leopards’ basket. Darrell Bethune was then called for a foul before the inbound, resulting in his ejection, and Blaine Feckleton hit the first free-throw before missing the second to leave his team down by two, with the ball and 2.3 seconds on the clock.
The hosts got the ball to Leome Francis but some great defence meant his shot was short, and Leopards held on for victory.
The Big Cats had started well, putting up 24 points in the first five minutes, but the home side led by as many as 13 in the second half before the visitors staged their comeback.
Sandiford led the visitors with 27 points and five rebounds, while captain Sam Newman had an impressive 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Lee Hodges finished with a 20 point, 14 rebound double-double and Wood had six boards to go with his 12 points.
Recent signing Wright led Storm with a 30 point, 12 rebound double-double in a 40 minute performance, with Tom Adorian adding 15 points and seven boards in just over 16 minutes.
The Big Cats certainly started well as Newman hit a pair of treys and Hodges got open in the paint on several occasions. Sandiford and Wood both go in on the act from downtown and Newman hit his third trey as Leopards led 23-13 after just five minutes.
The scoring inevitably slowed after that manic start but Daniel Wagener’s lay-up with a second on the clock sent the Big Cats into the first break with a 33-25 lead. The second period proved to be a slog for the visitors, Hodges getting them off the mark after 95 seconds but although they were ahead by ten following a Sandiford free-throw with four minutes gone, a trey from former Leopard Will Ashby sparked a run from the hosts and they took a one point lead off a Wright dunk with 92 second on the clock.
Hodges restored the Leopards’ lead by Freckleton wrapped up a high-scoring first half to give his side a 49-48 advantage as they headed into the locker room.
It took three second half minutes for Newman to get Leopards off the mark but despite another two triples from the visitors’ captain, Storm finished the period strongly and Levi Noel sent them into the final break 74-61 ahead.
Back-to-back Sandiford baskets from the Land of Plenty saw that lead quickly trimmed to seven early in the fourth period and Wood kept his side in touch with a basket from outside the arc.
But it was a quick-fire 11-0 run sparked by Sandiford and finished with back-to-back baskets from Hodges that saw Leopards regain the lead with four minutes remaining.
Wood hit another treble as the teams exchanged baskets down the stretch before the game reached its climax in the final minute and Leopards held on for revenge.
2014 – Big Cats strengthen title bid
Coach Robert Youngblood was delighted with his side’s fourth straight win: “we’re moving the ball much better, and Andre [Lockhart] had made a real difference. We had six players in double figures, and Shaun [Durant] and Howard [Crawford] work really well together. I was also really pleased with the energy Courtney [Van Beest] gave us off the bench The league title is still there for the taking, we just have to keep playing good team ‘ball.”
Crawford led the Big Cats for the third successive game and the fifth time in six, finishing with a 22 point, 12 rebound double-double. Durant also recorded a double-double, hitting 18 points and pulling down as many boards. Kris Clark had seven assists and five steals to go with his 18 points, with Lockhart adding 12 points, while Carl Josey and Courtney Van Beest finished with ten points apiece, the latter pulling down nine boards as the hosts out-rebounded Mohawks 49-31.
Jorge Ebanks – who led the visitors with 27 points – opened the scoring for the visitors, but with Crawford hitting the first six points for Leopards, the home side led 6-5 with just under four minutes gone. That proved to be the Big Cats’ last lead of the quart as Mohawks answered with a 6-0 run, before Crawford took his tally to eight for the period and Ebanks answered at the other end to send the visitors into the first break with a 21-18 lead.
Free-throws from Jerome Narcisse and Ebanks saw Mohawks’ lead grow to seven two minutes into the second period. But that proved to be as good as it got for the visitors as Leopards went on a 17-0 run lead, holding the Middlesbrough side scoreless for over five minutes, to take a lead they would never lose .
Van Beest sparked the run with four straight points before Crawford also scored four points to give the hosts the lead . Seven consecutive Durant points put Leopards in charge before Crawford wrapped the run off a Clark assist. Ebanks finally broke the tear with a trey, but Crawford answered with a dunk, and a Josey trey sent the Big Cats into the locker room with a 41-30 lead.
Durant scored the first four Leopards’ points of the third period, and although Alex Greven – who finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists – briefly took the lead down to single digits with a trey, a Josey trey launched a 13-2 run which was capped by a three point play by Clark as Leopards’ lead grew to 20 at the five minute mark.
A Van Beest jump shot saw the lead peak at 22, and Leopards went into the final break 73-55 ahead. Clark drained from the Land of Plenty to keep the lead at 18 early in the fourth period, and a Lockhart basket put Leopards 84-67 with five minutes to play.
The visitors chipped away at the lead with Greven briefly making it a nine point game with three minutes remaining, with Lockhart replying off a Durant assist. A Ryan Nelson and-one brought Mohawks within eight points with 71 seconds on the clock, but Lockhart hit two from four at the foul line and Clark converted four free-throws as Leopards wrapped up the win.