2016 – Leopards cruise in fourth period
A strong fourth period paved the way for Levett Leopards to record their 11th league win of the campaign as Kent Crusaders were beaten 76-59 at Harlow, on Saturday. The Big Cats had let a 16-point first half lead slip against a stubborn Kent side who had just added a second American player, but a devastating 18-1 run in the first seven minutes of the final quarter saw them wrap up the victory and strengthen their play-off hopes.
In the absence of captain Albert Margai, whose suspension saw an end to his perfect 66 game run since joining the Big Cats in September 2014, Brian Nguru came into the starting line-up and hit three treys on the way to a 17 point night.
Ladi Brown again led the Big Cats’ scoring with 20 points and five rebounds, while Will Ashby added 11 points. Courtney Van Beest finished with a ten point, 11 rebound double-double with Tosin Oyelese also finish with double-digit boards.
The young Kent side led for only 38 seconds in the game but showed why they have continued to cause play-off bound sides problems as they refused to give in until the key run to open the final stanza. Steve Vear’s side were led by 17 points and seven rebounds from American Rayell Eytle-Rock.
In a scrappy game that saw 54 foul calls and 55 trips to foul line, Leopards opened strongly with Brown getting them on the scoreboard before a pair of three-point plays from Ashby put them 8-0 ahead after four minutes. But Kent gave a hint of what was to come as Elliot hit a trey in a 10-1 run, and as Leopards missed four-from-six free-throws, an and-one from England junior Josh Foulds gave the visitors a 16-15 lead at the first break.
Nguru was on fire in the early stages of the second period as he hit seven straight points to open the quarter and drained another three as the home side went on a 19-2 run capped by three Connor Stuart points to give them a 34-18 lead heading into the final three minutes of the half. But as often as has happened with Leopards this season, the Trophy loss at Crusaders being a prime example, Leopards took their foot off the gas and allowed the visiting side to reel off eight straight points before Tom Martin hit a single free-throw to send his side into the locker room with 35-26 lead.
The third period proved to be a battle of attrition with both sides living at the foul line. A pair of Brown free-throws edged Leopards back ahead after Eytle-Rock had tied the scores, but the Big Cats never led by more than four in the seven minutes of the quarter before Dougie Bennett split a pair at the charity stripe to send his side into the final break 49-46 ahead.
Eytle-Rock made a one point game in the opening play but treys from Bennett and Nguru launched the run that ultimately gave Leopards the win. Van Beest took his side’s lead up to 13 with back-to-back baskets before Brown increased the lead to 15 and even an unsportsmanlike foul call on Jamie Hayes didn’t break Leopards’ momentum as the visitors shaved only a point off the lead
Bennett hit another shot from the Land of Plenty and Nguru took the advantage up to 19 before Japhet-Mathias ended the run, but it was too late to prevent the Big Cats completing the double over the Kent side.
1997 – Budweiser British Basketball League
Playboy TV Leopards 108 Leicester Riders 95
2010 – Leopards lose in Middlesbrough
Tees Valley Mohawks 96 (29,56,78) Leopards 91 (22,41,66)
LEOPARDS returned from the north east with a defeat on Saturday, but the margin of defeat means they have the key head-to-head decider against fellow strugglers Mohawks.
Led by 24 Carl Latham-Henry points, a strong second half couldn’t prevent the defeat in Middlesbrough. Leopards trailed 29-22 at the first break and 56-41 at half-time. With Leigh Greenan adding a 21 point, 15 rebound double-double and Marlan Henry finishing had their chances if the fourth quarter but were unable to get any closer than a single point.
Ike Attah gave the home side the lead with the first points of the game, but Lukas Volskis levelled, and back-to-back Greenan baskets saw the Big Cats take a 13-9 lead with 5:46 on the clock. The game remained tight, with Attah levelling the score at 16 with four minutes of the period remaining, but it was the hosts who closed out the quarter strongly with a 10-2 run.
A Will Spragg basket extended the home side’s lead to 31-22 with the first score of the second quarter, and although Henry cut the deficit with a single free-throw, a Carl Colmer trey saw Mohawks’ lead grow to 44-31 at the midway stage of the period. Scores from Latham-Henry and Volskis kept Leopards in touch, but three-pointers from Lee McLaughlin and Michael Thompson saw Tees Valley’s lead balloon to 15, and a Spragg basket sent the hosts into the locker room with a 56-41 lead.
Henry opened the second half scoring, but neither side were able to put any real runs together, and Greenan’s block on McLaughlin’s three-point attempt sent Mohawks into the final break with a 78-66 lead.
The decision to put Latham-Henry on Tees Valley’s American Nathan Connolly proved key as the visitors staged a comeback in the fourth period. The Leopards top scorer hit their first four points of the quarter, but they still trailed 85-74 with 7:15 on the clock when coach Jon Burnell called a time-out.
The move worked as a Volskis trey launched a 12-2 run that saw them move within a point of the home side. Latham-Henry hit a shot before Henry scored five straight points to put Leopards back in the game.
A Greenan basket off Sam Richardson’s assist made it 87-86 with three minutes remaining – but was to be as close as the visitors came. Attah broke the run, and he hit five straight points to put his team 92-86 ahead with 1:52 remaining, and they wrapped up the win from the line..
Leopards: C Latham-Henry (24), M Henry (22), L Greenan (21), L Volskis (16), S Richardson (8), C Michaelides, M Holbrook, J Burnell (DNP)