2006 – Leopards fail French Test
London Leopards 82 (22,47,65)
AS Cherbourg 87 (25,43,67)
Spanish trialist Mario Pérez Fernández led the way with 19 points as Leopards lost a tight pre-season friendly against French side Cherbourg. 22-year-old Pérez Fernández poured in 13 points after the break, but it was not enough to prevent an experimental Big Cats team slipping to defeat.
Despite four new signings currently out of the country, and two English players on holiday, coach Jon Burnell was still able to name a 14-man squad for the game and it proved to be a useful run-out as the Big Cats prepare for the new EBL Division One campaign.
The visitors took the lead with the first possession of the game, but six straight points from England junior Joe chinmwin and a three from Pérez Fernández gave the 13-10 lead with six minutes gone. The sharp-shooting French side hit back with a barrage of three-pointers, and despite two successful free-throws from point guard Joe Matthews, the visitors went into half-time with a 13-10 lead.
Forward Lee McCarthy, who spent last season with Milton Keynes Lions in the BBL, scored the first six Leopards’ points of the second half, and a trey from Pérez Fernández plus scores from Ichinmwin and Errol Seaman put Leopards into a 38-33 lead. Cherbourg continued to be deadly from outside the arc and cut Leopards’ lead to a single point with a minute of the half remaining before McCarthy scored a lay-up before launching a long-range buzzer-beater to send the home team into half-time with a 47-43 lead.
Seaman and Matthews opened the second half scoring from the free-throw line, but nine unanswered Cherbourg points saw them regain the lead at 63-62. Leopards were not helped by Roger Lloyd missing four straight free-throws, but the veteran forward made amends with a massive dunk which brought the good-sized Wodson Park to its feet. True to form, Lloyd then missed two free-throws, and a late free-throw from Stefen Edou sent Cherbour into the final break with a 67-54 lead.
Edou opened the final period scoring, and although the Big Cats were always in touch, they never managed to get any closer than two points. A three from Matthews midway through the period closed the gap to four, but as the home side continued to struggle from the line the French National League 2 side held on for victory.
Leopards: M Pérez Fernández 19, L McCarthy 16, J Ichinmwin 16, E Seaman 10, J Matthews 8, R Lloyd 6, J Nicholson 4, S Salter 3, D Peacock, F Adeleke. DNP: E Gregory, M Jarvis, G Crowhurst, D Aldwinckle.