2020 – Rockets downed in overtime
Leopards produced their best performance of the season to win an overtime thriller 97-91 at Reading, on Sunday. The victory is a key one for Thomas Baker’s team as they battle to avoid the drop and should provide a confidence boost as they look forward to a massive weekend which sees them visit Liverpool on Saturday before hosting Nottingham Hoods at Oaklands the following day.
Elvisi Dusha was the star man for the Big Cats as the Albanian international played through a back injury to lead the Big Cats with 34 points, including six of his nine three-point attempts, six assists and five rebounds. Fellow international, England’s Orlan Jackman added a 20-point, 12 rebound double-double while Lithuanian Os Gaizuaskas had 11 points and six boards.
Coach Thomas Baker ran a short rotation with only six players logging more than eight minutes of court time, with Jackman, Dusha and Prince Lartey – who dished out seven assists – sitting down for just five minutes between them.
It was a tight game throughout, with 19 lead changes and 12 ties, with Leopards’ 64-56 lead in the third period the biggest of the game and their 11-0 tear to close out overtime the biggest run of the game..
Nick Richards led Rockets with 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Leome Francis had an 18 point, 12 rebound double-double. Ed Potter and Liam Davis also had double-doubles with the former having 14 points and ten boards, while the latter finished with ten points and 11 rebounds.
Lartey opened the scoring at the foul line and Leopards led for almost all of the first period with Chuck Duru’s lay-up making it 14-12 at the five minute mark. Dusha’s first triple made it a five point game with 4:29 on the clock and Jackman’s shot kept them comfortably ahead before Richards drained from downtown to cut the visitors’ lead to 21-20 at the first break.
Potter put his side ahead with the first score of the second period, only for Dusha to reply from the Land of Plenty and that set the tone for the quarter. There was little between the teams but Ben Dixon’s lay-up looked to have given Rockets a half-time lead only for a perfectly run play out of a Baker timeout to end with Dush beating the clock to drain a three and put the Big Cats 44-42 ahead going into the locker room.
A bizarre set of refereeing decisions at the start of the second half saw Dusha called for an intentional foul after an initial jump ball call and Jackman collect his fourth foul after driving to the basket leaving him one foul away from disqualification with 19 minutes of regulation time remaining.
But Leopards weathered the storm, with Toby Gastaldi-Davis draining a triple to give them a five point lead with four minutes gone and Dusha’s triple meant they could survive a late 5-0 Rockets run – Francis converting an and-one and Pau Mayor hitting a lay-up – to go into the fourth quarter with a 64-62 lead.
Francis and Ray Akpofure exchanged baskets to open the fourth quarter, but with a short rotation Leopards noticeably tired in the fourth period and David Chive’s trey put Rockets 78-71 ahead with 6:10 on the clock.
But a pair of Jackman baskets kept his side in the game before his trey cut the deficit to one with 3:21 on the clock before Boho’s shot with 1:25 left gave the home side a three point lead.
Inevitably it was Dusha who sunk the triple to tie the game at 86 with 71 seconds to set up a frantic final minute. Gastaldi-Davis and Duru both missed shots but Richards turned the ball over with 5.1 seconds on the clock, and a Baker timeout saw the ball advanced to half-court. But, in what might be the quickest five seconds in history, Leopards failed to get the ball inbounded, giving Rockets the final shot. Rockets’ coach Alan Keane called a timeout and then called another when the imposing figure of Ahmed Ketiri disrupted the hosts’ offence. Francis did manage to get a shot off but it hit the rim and Jackman grabbed the rebound to send the game into overtime.
Richards hit the first five points of the extra period but triples from Gastaldi-Davis and Gaizuaskas put Leopards back in front before Jackman and Gaizuaskas wrapped up a massive win for the Big Cats at the foul line.
2015 – Big Cats slay Dragons
A tight first period saw the home side edge ahead, but the Big Cats finished strongly to lead 18-16 at the first break before taking control in the second period to lead 44-31 at half-time.
They held that 13 point lead at the final break, 48-35 and at the mid-point in the fourth period they were 69-56 ahead and their lead never went in single digits as they closed out the win.
Dave Ajumobi continued his fine season with 24 points, while Albert Margai bounced back from a scoreless night against Hemel to add 14 points. Will Ashby (13) and Byron Richards (11) completed a balanced scoring night as the Big Cats improved their record to 13-4 and ensured a fifth straight winning season in the league.
Three- point shooting proved to be the key as Leopards hit 10-from-24 outside the arc while Dragons missed their 13 attempts.
2014 – Leopards lose in Reading
A good start wasn’t enough to Leopards as they went down 94-77 at Reading Rockets on Saturday to leave the home as clear favourites for the Division One title. Howard Crawford finished with a massive 30 points and eight rebounds with Andre Lockhart adding 15 and Kris Clark 11.
Clark opened the scoring, and back-to-back scores from Crawford put Leopards 6-2 ahead before a Lockhart score and a three-point play Howard Crawford gave the Big Cats an 11-2 ahead after just three minutes. That was as good as it got for the Big Cats as Gabriel Diaz-Morera got the home side moving with a trey and although Lockhart trey made it a seven point game with six minutes gone, Reading closed out the period with a 9-4 run to cut Leopards’ lead to 25-23 at the first break.
Leopards missed their first four shots of the second period and scored just two points – from Crawford – in the opening four minutes of the quarter as Reading opened a 30-27 lead. Durant made it a one point game at the five minute mark, but it was Crawford and Lockhart who kept the visitors in touch before Josh Wilsher drained a three to send the hosts into the locker room with a 50-41 half-time lead.
A Clark trey off Shaun Durant’s assist saw that lead cut to six early in the third period, but that was as close as Leopards got in the quarter, with Lewis Carpenter hitting a trey to take the hosts’ lead into double figures Crawford hit three of four foul shots and also scored on the break, but despite a Courtney Van Beest basket to close the period, Reading went into the final break 71-64 ahead.
Wilcher hit another three to open the fourth period and the lead grew to 12 following a bizarre technical foul on coach Robert Youngblood – coming within 20 seconds of Diaz-Morera being allowed to hurl the ball at the wall following a travel call. With Diaz-Morera hitting both foul shots, the decision effectively ended the game as a contest as Leopards went four minutes without scoring and they never got the margin inside single figures again as they suffered their fifth league defeat of the season.
Ivan Emanuely led Rockets with 22 points and 12 boards, with Wilcher having a 19 point, 11 assist double-double and Diaz-Morera added 15 points and six rebounds.