2015 – Another victory for the Comeback Kids
Leopards moved another step closer to the league title on Sunday with a thrilling 63-60 victory against fourth place Derby Trailblazers. A noisy Brentwood Centre crowd were treated to another thriller as the Big Cats again did it the hard way, coming back from a 14 point deficit in the second period to all-but end Derby’s title hopes.
Robert Youngblood’s team were missing Will Ashby, Matic Zupanc and Lucas Winegarner due to the university finals in east London, but Brentwood-based Ashby raced back after the game and he hit the crucial basket with 15 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Albert Margai led the Big Cats with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Byron Richards had three first period triples on the way to 14 points and seven rebounds. Ladi Brown and Courtney Van Beest each finished with eight points, and it was the home side’s three-point shooting which proved key in the end as they converted 11 of their 25 attempts from downtown.
Margai and Richards – twice – started the three-point display as Leopards raced into a 9-4 lead but that proved to be as good as it got in the first half as a pair 7-0 runs from the visitors saw them go into the first break 21-15 ahead. It didn’t get any better for the home side in the second period as Derby opened with a 6-1 run and although Ladi Brown hit a jump shot in reply, a three-pointer from American Chris Shalvoy made it 32-18 with 6:38 remaining in the half.
The hosts weren’t helped by Dave Ajumobi collecting his third personal foul on a questionable offensive call. But Leopards finally showed signs of life as Van Beest beat the shot clock to drain a trey before Derby coach Matt Shaw collected a technical foul for disputing whether the shot had gone off in turn . Ronnie Baker converted the free-throw and Ladi Brown hit a jump shot to complete a six-point offence.
Margai brought his side to within three as he drained from downtown with 77 first half seconds remaining, but it was Derby who finished stronger to lead 39-32 at half-time.
That lead remaining intact for most of the third period before a 9-0 run capped by a pair of Ajumobi free-throws briefly gave Leopards their first lead since the opening minute, but Derby again finished strongly as Ajumobi picked up another offensive foul to tie the game at 49 heading into the final break.. That run continued as Derby hit the first five points of the fourth period before Ashby joined the action and he hit a three to make it a two point game.
Margai put the Big Cats up by one heading into the final five minutes before Alex Denholm scored his only shot of the game to send Derby into the final three and half minutes with a three point lead. But that proved to be the final time the visitors would score, with some excellent defence from Leopards and scores from Ladi Brown and Margai put them ahead before Ashby sealed the victory.
Raheem May-Thompson led Derby with a 13 point, 11 rebound double-double, with Shalvoy adding ten points and six assists. John Stewart finished with nine points, while Dan Watts missed out on a double-double by two points having collected 14 boards to help the visitors out-rebound Leopards 48-37.
2009 London Leopards 78 Cardiff Celts 66
EBL Division One @ The Brentwood Leisure