No one knew at the time, but March 8, 2020 proved to be the last time Leopards would take to the court as Covid-19 brought an end to the season and the club morphed into Oaklands Wolves.
What an ending, though!
2020 – Leopards blitz Hoods
Leopards moved a step closer to safety as they produced a dominant performance to hammer Nottingham Hoods 127-95 on. The Oaklands crowd were treated to a barrage of three-pointers as the home side hit 21 of their 37 efforts from the Land of Plenty as they led from tip to buzzer on their way to a third straight win
After a thrilling win at Liverpool on Saturday, things were a bit less fraught the following day as the Big Cats never looked back after a 35-22 first period and had the game tied up by the end of the third quarter with a 96-70 lead.
England international Orlan Jackman was in scintillating form for Thomas Baker’s team as he chalked up a 20 point, 20 rebound, 10 assist triple-double. Last week’s NBL Division One player-of-the-week Elvisi Dusha finished with 20 points, seven assists and four rebounds on six-from-seven three-point shooting, while captain Chuck Duru had 17 points and five boards in just 15 minutes and Aaron Williams had 15 points. Prince Lartey had a 13 point, 11 assist double-double while Os Gaizuaskas also had 13 points, Marius Kaftaniukas added 12 and Ray Akpofuru 10 as coach Baker was able to share the playing time around
American Demetrius Houston again led Hoods with 29 points in a 40 minute performance, while Delaney Powell impressed with 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Tom Atkinson added 19 points and six rebounds, but Houston’s compatriot Garrison Goode was held to 14 points on six-from-13 shooting
Gaizuaskas started what proved to be a three-point blitz in the first quarter, and after Powell had converted a lay-up, Duru, Dusha, Jackman and Duru (again) all scored from the Land of Plenty as Leopards opened a 15-10 lead after three minutes.
Jackman ended the three-point fest by driving to the hoop to make it a seven point game and Williams maintained that lead as he became the fifth Leopard to score from the Land of Plenty with seven minutes gone .
Another Jackman triple kept Leopards in charge and a turnaround jumper from Williams sent the Big Cats into the first break with a 13 point lead.
Kaftaniukas and Lartey made it seven Leopards with a trey to their name as they made it 43-28 with 7:44 on the clock, and Dusha took the lead out to 20 with three minutes gone. Five straight Jackman points made it a 21-point game and Lartey’s lay-up sent the hosts into the locker room leading 66-47.
Three-from-three at foul line for Jackman took the lead out to 25 after three second half minutes and another triple from Dusha made it a 30 point game four minutes into the third quarter and despite Powell doing most of the damage in a 12-5 run to close the quarter, Leopards led 94-70 at the final break.
Gaizuaskas’ dunk saw Leopards reach the century mark for the first time in a league game this season after just over a minute of the fourth quarter and Hoods never got within 20. Ahmed Ketri made it a 30 point game by stealing the ball from an inbound before scoring before Kaftaniukas wrapped up Leopards’ biggest win of the season.
2015 – Warriors hammered at Brentwood
Leopards kept up their title challenge as a devastating second half display saw them beat Westminster Warriors 81-66 at the Brentwood Centre . Even without the unavailable Dave Ajumobi, Leopards’ proved too strong after the interval as the relegation-threatened visitors were outscored 21-13 in the third period and 22-14 in the fourth as the Big Cats picked up their 14th league win of the campaign.
Will Ashby led the way with four treys in his 18 point haul, and added six assists. Lawrence Brown had his biggest game of the season with a 13 point, 16 rebound double-double, while Byron Richards finished with 15 points and five boards.
With Ajumobi away on business, Tosin Oyelese made his first start as a Leopard and he opened the scoring in a first period which saw the visitors lead 10-8 after eight minutes of action. A Brown dunk finally sparked the home side into life and a pair of Matic Zupanc treys helped the Big Cats close out the period on a 10-3 run to lead 19-13 at the first break.
That lead grew to nine as Ladi Brown hit a triple to open the second period but former Leopard Nathan Ashley hit five points in a 10-3 run to bring the visitors within two points.
Albert Margai broke the run with a three but Warriors grabbed their first lead of the game with a Justin Hitchman trey three minutes before half-time and although Ashby drained another from downtown it was the visitors who led 39-38 going into the locker room.
Zupanc opened the second half scoring but there was little sign of what was to come as Warriors 43-40 with four minutes gone. Ashby finally got the Big Cats moving as he nailed a three, and with Richards hitting three of three at the foul line following Hitchman’s foul, Leopards never trailed again as Ashby again struck from downtown to send his side into the final break leading 59-52.
Richards continued the three-point barrage to open the fourth period and Leopards’ lead only dipped into single figures before Oyelese wrapped up the scoring to send the Brentwood crowd home happy.
Denzel Ubiaro led the visitors with 17 points and seven rebounds, with Ashley adding 11 points. Former England and GB international Julius Joseph was held to nine points and six rebounds on three-from-13 shooting.
2014 – Josey helps Leopards storm to victory
Leopards recorded their third victory of the season against Division One leaders Hemel Storm as they returned from Hertfordshire with an 89-83 victory on Saturday. Carl Josey drained four three-pointers in the first half on the way to a team-high 21 points as Leopards led for most of the game before holding off a late surge from the hostsfree.
Kris Clark and Howard Crawford scored 15 points apiece while veteran point guard Ronnie Baker drained some key free-throws in the final minutes as the Big Cats collected their 15th win of the season. Clark opened the scoring before Josey’s first trey of the game put the visitors 6-2 ahead, and Josey drained back-to-back triples to give his side a 23-14 lead at the first break.
Storm reduced the Big Cats’ lead to five off a Bode Adeluola basket, but Andre Lockhart and Josey both drained from outside the arc before Lockhart’s assist saw Josey to take his tally to 16 for the half and send Leopard into locker room with a 45-33 lead.
Lockhart opened the second half scoring before an injury to former Leopard Zac Wells held the game up, but Josey’s fifth three-pointer of the game gave the visitors an 11 point lead with four third period minutes remaining.
Dru Spinks made it a six point game with 3:38 of the period remaining, but a time-out from Youngblood clamed things down, and Clark sent Leopards into the final break with a 64-54 lead.
The hosts started the fourth period with a 7-0 run capped by an Adeluola basket and a pair of Spinks free-throws tied the game at 70 with 5:44 on the clock. Clark drained from downtown to restore Leopards’ lead but a pair of Adeluola free-throws gave the home side their first lead of the game with four minutes remaining.
It was nip and tuck from then on with neither side able to lead by more than a point, and Leopards went into the final two minutes a point down after a Crawford miss. The introduction of England’s most capped player, Baker, calmed Leopards, and some tough defence saw Baker steal the ball and drain a pair of free-throws to put his side ahead.
Clark also drained a pair at the charity stripe as Storm were forced to foul, and Baker hit four straight free-throws to put his side up by seven with nine seconds left. Hemel’s Mark Darlow drained a trey to give his side some faint hope, but Clark remained cool at the foul line to ice the win.
Adeluola finished with a game-high 29 points and Spinks added 19 but the pair couldn’t stop Leopards’ winning streak against the Hemel franchise (who have played at various Herts venues) to 20 straight games.