2017 – Leopards open with a win
Levett Essex Leopards opened their season with a victory as Team USA Whites were beaten 86-71 at Oaklands College, on Friday evening. The Big Cats will now look to complete a double against the touring Americans when they face their Blue side at the Brentwood Centre, on Sunday.
Spanish guard Ruben Saiz Colon led the way on his Leopards’ debut with 21 points, scoring the opening points as Thomas Baker’s side led from tip to buzzer. Jamie Hayes added 14 points, while captain for the night Kevin Moyo finished with eight points and as many assists.
After Saiz Colon had got the scoreboard moving, three point plays from Kevin Moyo and Hayes saw Leopards rush into an 8-0 lead. The closest the visitors came in the first period was six points. But treys from David Moyo and Steve Hemmings kept the home side ahead before Hayes took his first period tally to nine as his led 26-11 at the opening breakpc.
Saiz Colon and Shaq Lewis each scored twice before Jamie Rodwell wrapped up 10-0 run to open the second period and put the Big Cats up by a game-high 25 points.
The Americans managed to chip away at the lead as Leopards, understandably, lost a bit of intensity by Rodwell’s lay-up sent them into the locker room with a comfortable 50-32 lead.
Lewis, Rodwell and Saiz Colon all scored as the lead grew to 24 at the start of the second half, and with Kevin Moyo and Will Ashby hitting three-point plays they stated in control before a 12-0 run from the visitors saw the lead reduced to 62-50 with two third period minutes remaining. Oaklands’ youngster Wes Morgan broke the run and Hayes beat the buzzer with a triple to give a Leopards a 69-52 lead at the final break.
Hayes completed his scoring for the night with the opening play of the fourth period, and with Hammings, Ashby, and Moyo all hitting treys, Leopards closed out the win comfortably.
2019 – Team USA outlast Leopards
A strong second half comeback wasn’t quite enough as Leopards went down 89-76 against Team USA Select at the Brentwood Centre, on Sunday.
A big crowd saw Thomas Baker’s new-look team start slowly before working their way back into the game but eventually ran out of time
Ray Akporu led the Big Cats with 17 points and nine rebounds while Leon Henry finished with 18 points and added five boards in 16 minutes of actio. Hafeez Abdul added 16 points and seven rebounds, with captain Chuck Duru chipping in with ten points and five boards.
With Leopards fielding ten debutants and only Duru returning from last season, it was not surprise that they struggled against an impressive American side as they fell behind 15-7 after five minutes. They recovered a bit to cut the gap to 25-18 at the first break, but the second period proved to be a tough learning curve as they were outscored 24-11 to trail 49-29 going into the locker room at half-time.
The hosts chipped a point off the deficit by the midway stage of the third period, but although stopped the bleeding still trailed by 19 going into the final break.
The fourth quarter was all Leopards as they steadily reduced the lead, outscoring the visitors 17-12 in the first five minutes before eventually winning the period 31-25.