1997 The night Leopards won the league
Leopards 109 Hemel & Watford Royals 94
Budweiser League @ London Arena
2014 – Disaster in East London
When assistant coach Roger Malpass said goodbye to everyone after an overtime home win against Team Northumbria and mentioned that he would miss the following Thursday’s visit to Newham Neptunes due to wok commitments it never occurred to anyone to ask for the team’s licence cards.
About an hour before tip-off at University of East London the realisation dawned that this was something of a problem. Despite everyone in the gym knowing each other, the referees couldn’t insist the game was played and with Newham desperate to get into the play-offs, they certainly weren’t going give up the chance of a 20-0 win – even with Roger desperately sending pictures of the licence cards from his hotel
The teams played a friendly instead, Leopards winning 65-61 but it wasn’t a consolation as the league defeat ended their outside chance of piping Reading to the title. The Rockets won both of their remaining games, anyway, although the pressure was obviously off by then.
To rub salt into the wounds, the game was only scheduled for a Thursday as Newham had forgotten to book a court for the original date. While Leopards had to forfeit the game, they were excused the mandatory fine and shortly afterwards England Basketball announced an online licence card system.
2011 – Leopards through to final four
A 77-68 victory against Durham Wildcats sealed Leopards’ place in the EBL Division One Final Four, on Sunday afternoon.
In front of a packed house at the Brentwood Centre, Leopards led from tip-to-buzzer to chalk up their tenth straight victory.
The Big Cats will play Reading Rockets in the semi-final at the Amaechi Centre on Saturday April 16, with the winner facing either Bristol Academy Flyers or Leeds Carnegie in the final the following day.
A Greenan basket eight seconds into the game gave Mark Clark’s side a lead they never lost, but it wasn’t until the final minute that a stubborn Wildcats side were finally put away. Foul trouble caused problems for the Big Cats throughout the game, with Greenan and Ousman Krubally combining for just 41 minutes as they led the scoring with 18 points apiece. Krubally added seven rebounds at each end for another double-double, with Greenan was one of three players to finish with nine rebounds.
Josh Johnson finished with 14 points and nine boards, and Josh Sharlow added nine points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Coach Clark was understandably delighted after the game: “It is great for everyone involved to be making the trip to Manchester. We again showed what a resilient group we are. We came out really strong and were the aggressor early and built the early lead. We always knew that Durham were going to be tough and they refused to lie down and when they closed it to a two point game we were asked serious questions – especially as Ouse had already fouled out.
“Josh Sharlow again as he has for the last few weeks showed great leadership and Leigh Greenan after a difficult last few weeks with injury played hard in the last five minute. On a day when lots of great Leopards memories were recounted as original Leopards owners Ed and Annie-T Simons were at the game, this organisation has given itself the chance to create some of its own memories.
“It is almost surprising that in a season that has been so competitive that the top four made to Manchester. It will be a great weekend with the best four teams looking to win a championship we will simply get back to work on Monday and prepare to bring our best performance to the Amaechi Centre.”
Greenan’s opening score sparked a strong start to the game as Leopards scored the first seven points of the game, including a trey from Keelan Cairns, and they led 14-2 at midway stage of the first period. But the visitors showed that they wouldn’t lie down, and Paul Nelson launched a 6-2 run for the Wildcats, and despite a Sharlow trey, Durham cut the lead to 21-14 going into the first break.
Simeon Esprit opened the second period scoring off a Johnson assist, but there was little to choose between the teams in the quarter as they shared 40 points. The lead grew to ten with a Johnson trey off Dominic Norton’s assist, and a single free-throw from Krubally made a 13 point game going into the final three minutes of the half before Paul Elderkin’s trey helped the visitors close out the half of a 10-4 run to make it 41-34 going into the locker room.
Kevin Bulger made it a five point game to open the third period, but scores from Krubally and Greenan kept Leopards in front and another Cairns trey made it 50-41 with five minutes gone. Greenan made it 54-43 with 3:22 on the clock, but Wildcats again closed out the period strongly on a 7-2 run to cut Leopards’ lead to 56-50 at the final break. That run was stretched to 11-2 as Michael Davies and Chris Pearce scored baskets to make it a two point game.
Krubally picked up his fourth foul with 7:46 on the clock and left the game two minutes later on a dubious offensive call with the Big Cats clinging on to a 60-56 lead. Greenan made it a five point game with as many minutes remaining, but with three minutes remaining it was 63-59 to the Leopards, with Esprit joining Krubally on the bench after two quick fouls.
Nelson made it a three point game from the foul line, but scores from Johnson and Sharlow – after a Greenan steal – put the hosts 67-60 up with 80 seconds remaining. It was Greenan who scored the killer basket with 47 seconds on the clock to put his side up by ten and then completed the three point play, and although Bulger hit a trey, the Big Cats wrapped up their place in the semi-final from the foul line.
Nelson led the Wildcats with 17 points, with Paul Elderkin adding 14, Bulger 13 and Pearce 11, but the hosts’ 49-26 rebounding advantage proved key.
2016 – Play-off woe for Leopards
A disastrous fourth period saw Levett Essex Leopards’ play-off dreams end at Reading Rockets as they went down 102-84 on Sunday.The Big Cats were outscored 40-19 in the final quarter against their old rivals as their hopes of a sixth successive appearance in the semi-finals were ended.
Ladi Brown led a balanced scoring effort for the visitors with a 14 point, ten rebound double-double, with Courtney Van Beest also finishing with 14 points. Justin Hitchman added 12 points, with Albert Margai and Evan Walshe finishing with ten points apiece, adding seven and four assists respectively.
Former Leopard Dave Ajumobi came back to haunt hit old side, finishing with 21 points and seven boards as four Rockets scored 20+ points.
The visitors who were without Will Ashby started slowly with Rockets hitting the first four points before a Van Beest and-one got them on the scoreboard after two and a half minute’s play. The home side continued to control the game, though, with an Antonio Robinson jump shot making it 13-7 but Tom Martin drained all three free-throws after being fouled on a trey and a pair at the line from Tosin Oyelese cut the deficit to 20-17 at the first break.
Danny Carter doubled that lead with a trey to open the second period and Rockets opened a double-digit lead after three minutes of action before Leopards finally burst into life.
Some good defence saw Brown, Margai and Van Beest score in transition and the latter hit a long jump shot to make it a two point game with four minutes gone.
Brown reduced the arrears to one with a shot inside the paint before a Hitchman and-one tied the score at 34.
Van Beest gave Leopards their first lead of the game with a trey and Walshe put the visitors up by four with a lay-up, and although Rockets tied the game against, a Jamie Hayes basket plus a single Brian Nguru free-throw saw the Big Cats take a 45-42 lead into the locker room.
Nguru and Oyelese quickly made it a seven point game as Leopards opened the second half strongly and Dougie Bennett marked his first start by maintaining that lead with a triple. Oyelese gave Leopards their biggest lead of the game at 58-50 with a lay-up only to see Rockets hit ten straight points to retake the lead at 60-58.
But the game took another twist as Margai fed Hayes for a jump shot before Walshe scored from the Land of Plenty and Margai scored on the break to give Leopards a 65-62 lead at the final break.
Walshe made it a five point game with a score on the break to open the fourth period before Margai put them up by six with 8:30 remaining.
That proved to be as good as it got for the visitors as three straight turnovers helped Rockets regain the lead and although Brown stopped the bleeding with a trey, a 10-0 run put the hosts back in the lead, and they would never trail again.
Hitchman cut the lead to three with a three-point play but Rockets hit another nine unanswered points and side comfortably saw out the win.
2010 – Leopards shot down by Arrows
Sheffield Arrows 89 (16,35,60) Leopards 66 (28,38,60)
THE Big Cats rounded off their league campaign with a disappointing 89-66 loss at already-relegated Sheffield Arrows on Easter Saturday. Jon Burnell’s team had started strongly, rushing into a 28-16 lead at the first break, and their lead peaked at 34-18 two minutes into the second period, but that was as good as it got as a six minute drought saw Arrows gain the momentum.
Carl Latham-Henry, who led the Leopards with 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals, opened the scoring after 18 seconds with a drive to the basket, and scores from Sam Richardson and Leigh Greenan set the tone for the first period as the visitors rushed into a 6-0 lead.
Lukas Volskis, who finished with ten points and four assists, extended the Big Cats’ lead to 9-2 with a trey, and a tree-point play from Latham-Henry saw their lead reach double figures. Another Latham-Henry and-one put Leopards 22-11 ahead going into the final three minutes of the period, and scores from Volskis and Latham-Henry sent the Big Cats into the first break ahead by 12.
The visitors’ domination continued in the opening stages of the second period continued, and after Latham-Henry had opened the scoring, baskets from Marlan Henry and Greenan made it a 16-point game.
And then Leopards fell to pieces. They stopped pumping the ball inside to Greenan, and with Sebastian Chitagu scoring freely on the way to a 40 point night, Arrows reeled off 14 straight points to cut Leopards’ lead to 36-35 going into the final 30 seconds of the half before Latham-Henry ended the drought and make it a three point game going into the locker room.
Scores from Latham-Henry and Greenan kept Leopards ahead in the early stages of the third period, but a Semi Eboigbe three-point play gave Arrows their first lead of the game at 44-43 with 6:42 on the clock. The third quarter remained tight, and Leopards were 52-50 up with three and a half minutes remaining when Greenan was called for a harsh foul, and when the young centre protested he was hit with a technical foul, and promptly fouled out of the game.
Greenan had scored 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds in his 23 minutes of court, and his departure clearly hurt Leopards, though they were still level at 60 going into the final period following a Chris Michaelides three-pointer.
The fourth quarter saw the visitors totally lose composure, and their lack of numbers came back to haunt them again. A Mike Holbrook basket meant they only trailed 64-62 after a low scoring first four minutes, but the lead quickly reached double figures as Josef Faddoul sunk a trey, and with only Richardson and Latham-Henry troubling the scorers in the final four minutes, Leopards were outscored 27-4 to give Sheffield only their third league win of the campaign.
Leopards: C Latham-Henry 24, L Greenan 14, L Volskis 10, S Richardson 7, M Holbrook 4, M Henry 4, C Michaelides 3.