2011 – Overtime joy for Leopards
Derby Trailblazers 84 (23,44,53,77) Leopards 88 ((19,31,53,77)
LEOPARDS completed their second big comeback of the weekend as they made in nine wins on the bounce with another overtime victory against Derby Trailblazers.
A tired looking Big Cats team took to the floor at Derby on Sunday lunchtime as their title hopes looked to be over as they again trailed by 13 at half-time and were 48-31 down after two third period minutes. But Simeon Esprit launched the comeback with a trey, and once again refused to accept defeat.
Ousman Krubally finished with 23 points and 18 rebounds, with Leigh Greenan adding 16 points, 13 boards and two blocks. Josh Johnson had 18 points and six rebounds while Josh Sharlow finished with 15 points.
Mark Woodhouse hit five points as Derby rushed into a 7-0 run in the first three minutes, but Esprit broke the run and launched a 9-2 that gave his side their first lead of the game. An 8-2 run from the home side put Trailblazers back in control, and despite Sharlow’s two free-throws to close the quarter, it was Derby who went into the first break with a 23-19 lead.
The second period belonged to Derby as a pair of Joel Madourie free-throws saw them take a 31-21 lead with three minutes gone. Krubally broke the run, but the hosts steadily increased their lead as a Simon Spencer shot made it a 17 point game going into the final two minutes of the half and it took a pair of Johnson free-throws with 0.7 seconds on the clock to cut the hosts advantage to 44-31 going into the locker room.
Woodhouse increased that lead to 15 off a Sam O’Shea assist to open the second half and there was little sign of the comeback that followed as Woodhouse again scored to make it a 17 point game with 7:55 on the clock.
It was Greenan who started the 16-3 Leopards run in the final six minutes of the quarter with a score and then a block. Only a Gayle trey broke the run, and a pair of Sharlow free-throws cut the Derby lead to 53-51 going into the fourth period. That run was extended to 26-5 as Leopards started the fourth quarter strongly, and a Cairns trey gave them a 58-55 lead with 8:53 on the clock, and that advantage was doubled when Sharlow drained from downtown.
An O’Shea trey ended the run, but a Johnson basket put the visitors 66-58 up with 6:24 on the clock. However, and attempted block by Krubally on Madourie was ruled as an intentional foul, and in the ensuing melee, Johnson was also called for unsportsmanlike foul and Esprit was ejected after entering the court from the bench.
Spencer hit of two free-throws, and Madourie – who was fortunate to escape punishment – hit one of four, and then Spencer scored another from the foul line after he was fouled on the inbound to make it a four point game in the visitors’ favour. A Greenan and-one extended that lead to 69-62 with five minutes of regulation time left and then hit a long two to make it a nine point game.
But Madourie cut that lead to three with as many minutes left, and despite a basket from Krubally, Martyn Gayle made it a two point game going into the final 90 seconds.
Krubally doubled that lead, but it was Derby who scored the final four points of normal time as O’Shea converted a pair at the line and Woodhouse scored his final points of the game as the sides went to overtime for the second successive week.
Johnson opened the extra period with a pair of free-throws, before Madourie halved the lead from the line and the same player put Derby ahead 82-81 with three minutes remaining. That was as good as it got from the home side, with Krubally putting Leopards into the lead with a pair at the charity stripe before converting off Sharlow’s assist.
Madourie made it a one point game with 95 seconds remaining , and Cairns twice missed shots only for the visitors to grab one of their 21 offensive boards. O’Shea sent Sharlow to the foul line with 20 seconds to go, and the American guard coolly drained both shots to force a timeout from Derby’s Jamie Maudsley as his side trailed 87-84. But some good defence from the visitors saw former Leopard Stedroy Baker called for a five second inbound violation, and Krubally wrapped the win up at the foul line.
Madourie finished with a 28 point, 12 rebound double-double for the home side, with Gayle adding 19, O’Shea 18 and Woodhouse 13 points. Derby managed to out-shoot the visitors from both inside and outside the arc, but were out-rebounded 49-37.
Leopards: O Krubally (23), J Johnson (18), L Greenan (16), J Sharlow (15), S Esprit (9), K Cairns (7), D Norton, Z Wells, M Henry, R Teixeira (DNP)
2020 – Eleventh place finish for Leopards
Following today’s announcement regarding the conclusion of the 2019/20 NBL season, it has been confirmed that Leopards will finish the aborted campaign in 11th place. Basketball England has awarded a point to each team for the games due to be played during the final fortnight of the season, so the Big Cats finish with 13 points from 26 games with their home fixtures against Barking Abbey and Leicester, along with the trip to Worthing, going un-played. As a result, Westminster Warriors have been relegated.
Leopards won just one of their first 16 league games but the addition of England international Orlan Jackman saw them record a key 81-77 win against Westminster at Oaklands sparked a revival and the further additions of Elvisi Dusha, Aaron Williams and Osvaldas Gaizauskas helped them finish the season with three straight victories culminating in a 127-95 hammering of Nottingham Hoods in what proved to be their final game of the season.
“It’s a strange was to finish the season, but I don’t think Basketball England could have done it any differently – although allowed games to be played over the weekend of March 14/15 would have made their job easier” said general manager Dave Ryan.
“Staying in Division One was our aim after the fire at Oaklands and a poor start to the season. The changes we made certainly paid off and I think everyone connected with the club can be proud of how we turned things around.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t have played the final three games as we were on a roll, and I think we could have ended up in tenth spot. But we certainly finished in style with the win against Nottingham, although I think our best result of the season was the victory at Reading the previous week.”