2013 – Leopards seal fourth spot
An excellent defensive performance saw Leopards seal fourth place in Division One with an 89-79 victory at Team Northumbria, on Sunday. The hosts were held scoreless for over six third period minutes as the Big Cats turned a one point half-time advantage into a 68-51 lead at the final break, and they never looked back to seal a home quarter-final in the play-offs.
Greg Hernandez again led the Big Cats, finishing with 21, while Simon Cummings added 16 and Lawrence Brown had one of his best games as a Leopard with 15 points.
Duane Camile, making his first start for the Leopards, hit a trey to open, and Ish Fontaine also scored from downtown as the visitors took an early 6-5 lead. Scores from Hernandez and Cummings kept the score tied at 17, before Brown put them up by four with a put-back and Hernandez sent them into the first break leading 25-19.
Fontaine drained another three to keep the visitors up by six, and they led by eight with just over two minutes gone when coach Robert Youngblood called a timeout which failed to prevent a run which saw the lead reduced to 34-31 at the mid-stage of the quarter.
Treys from Camile and Tom Martin put Leopard back in charge before Youngblood received a technical foul which the hosts barely took advantage as they hit one of the two free-throws before Josey stole the ball The Big Cats were still up by six heading into the final minute of the half before the home side finished with five unanswered points to make it 44-43 at half-time.
Leopards forced a shot-clock violation to open the second half, and that set the tone for third period, with Cummings and Fontaine both draining from long range. Brown converted a three point play, and perfect foul shooting from Cummings and Hernandez made it a 14 point game before Martin converted from close range to make the score 68-49.
Jamie Glen reduced the lead to 17 with a score on the buzzer but Leopards started the fourth period well with Hernandez and Cummings both scoring to keep them ahead by 15. Dan Dunscombe scored after a move that could best be described as “controlled chaos” and Cummings made it a 19 point game before fouling out with 3:39 on the clock.
The home side never managed to get closer than the final ten point margin, with Brown scoring six more points capped by a dunk and Fontaine draining a trey to complete a successful weekend in the north east.
2018 – Play-off woe for Big Cats
A poor shooting night cost Leopards as they went down 84-80 against Westminster Warriors in the NBL Division Two play-offs, on Saturday. A good crowd at the Brentwood Centre saw the Big Cats’ season end in disappointment despite fighting back a 14-point first period deficit. Thomas Baker’s side’s love affair with the three-point shot proved to be their undoing as they hit just eight of their 37 shots from behind the arc, and they also missed 13 of their 27 foul shots as they came up short down the stretch.
Seven unanswered points saw the home side saw them tie the game with 1:26 on the clock but their inability to control Warriors’ player coach Jon Johnson – who finished with 41 points, ten rebounds and five assists – proved to be their undoing as the visitors finished strongly to win the game.
With captain Dougie Bennett still out with a back injury, fellow Brentwood-based guard Will Ashby led the way for the hosts 23 points in 26 minutes of action. Shaq Lewis finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, with youngster Jordan George adding 14 points and five boards. Korry Callum struggled with his shot all game but ended the game with 12 points and as many rebounds.Ashby hit a trey to open the game and hit a pair at the foul line to keep Leopards ahead, but that was as good as it got in the first period as Johnson hit seven straight points in a 10-0 run and despite back-to-back scores from Antonio Deogratius the hosts trailed 25-13 at the first break.
With George hitting a pair of treys and both Callum and Jerrell Layne also scoring from the Land of Plenty Leopards slowly edged their way back into the game but after Callum was fouled shooting a triple on the buzzer he missed all three free-throws as the Big Cats went into the locker room trailing 44-37 at half-time.
An and-one from Ashby pulled Leopards within five early in the second half, and the score remained around that mark before five straight Callum points made it a two point game, and a single Lewis’ free-throw sent the Big Cats into the final break trailing 59-56.
Johnson got loose again as he hit five points a 7-0 Westminster run to restored Warriors’ lead to ten points as they opened the fourth period strongly. But four points and five from George saw Leopards tie the score heading into the final minute, before Johnson launched the decisive run for the visitors and despite a trey from Ashby, they closed out the win and a trip to Nottingham in the semi-final.