2015 – Winning start for Big Cats
Levett Essex Leopards made a winning start to the season with a 76-67 victory against Team USA Select at the Brentwood Centre, on Friday. A mixture of returning players and trialists overcame a slow start to give new coach Steve Ogunjimi a winning start on his debut.
Portuguese forward Frederico Tavares was the only newcomer in Leopards’ starting line-up, alongside Albert Margai, Will Ashby, Courtney Van Beest and Tosin Oyelese.
After Van Beest and Ashby missed shots, Brown gave the visitors the lead with a trey and they opened a 6-0 lead before Van Beest put the home side on the scoreboard. The Big Cats took their first lead of the game when Ashby drained from downtown before Margai scored on the break to make it 13-12 with 2:32 on the clock. The visitors hit back, but the teams went into the first break tied at 15 as Leopards missed four of their six free-throws down the stretch.
Tom Martin – returning after two years away – opened the second period scoring and launched an 10-2 run, capped by a Ladi Brown trey, to give Leopards a lead they would never lose. Martin kept his side comfortably ahead with a trey before five straight Brown points extended the lead to 13 and although the visitors rallied as their strength in depth (they fielded an incredible 22 players) showed, Ashby’s score on the break sent the Big Cats into the locker room with a 42-37 half-time lead.
Ashby split two pairs of free-throws to open the third period and Margai hit two at the line before Team USA’s Hughes hit a jump shot to bring his side within a point at the mid-stage of the quarter.
Perry Lawson (left), who has seen plenty of action in the BBL, hit a pair of free-throws to keep the hosts ahead before Martin scored three from four at the charity strip as the home team regained control to lead 54-48 at the final break.
Brown drained another triple off Margai’s assist to open the fourth period and the lead hit double figures again when Ashby hit a jump shot with 2:20 on the clock.
A Brown dunk ended the game as a contest with 98 seconds on the clock, and Ogunjimi was able to give a plethora of trialists some court time in the closing stages.
Ashby led the way for the Big Cats with 22 points, while Brown added a Leopards’ career-high 20
2016 – Big Cats edged out
A big crowd at the Brentwood Centre saw Leopards edged out 81-77 by Team USA Select, on Sunday At a packed out Brentwood Centre saw the Big Cats field a mixture of bench players from last season and trialists.
Tosin Oyelese and Justin Hitchman both missed the game due to injury, with several other players unavailable due to Courtney Van Beet’s wedding, but the makeshift line-up which starts for Brian Nguru, Jamie Hayes (right) and Dougie Bennett put in a good performance before losing a thriller in the final seconds.
Veteran big man Errol Seaman returned after ten years away having helped the Big Cats win the National Cup in 2005/6, and there was a familiar face in guard Josh Johnson among the six trialists But it was youngster Shaq Lewis who stole the show on his Leopards’ debut with 25 points, nine rebounds and a couple of assists.
The visitors’ lack of size saw them outrebounded 49-39 by the Big Cats but they used their quickness to cause 24 turnovers which proved crucial down the stretch. There was little to choose between the teams in the early stages as they shared 20 points in the first five minutes before Leopards looked set to take a lead into the first break only to see the visitors hit a late three-point play to tie the game at 21 herunterladen.
It was a two point game in favour of the Americans heading into the final five minutes of the first half before a crucial stage of the game saw Leopards outscored 15-7 to trail 45-35 at half-time. Although Lewis made it a single digit game with the opening score of the second half, it appeared to have got away from the hosts as Team USA opened a 52-40 lead at the mid-stage of the third period.
But free-throws from Nguru and Lewis, together with a fast-break from Jamie Hayes saw the hosts claw their way back into the game Nguru cut the deficit to 60-55 at the final break. Scores from Fraser Glass and Bennett made it a three point game early in the fourth period, and Nguru kept them within five points with as many minutes remaining with a jump shot.
Lewis and Jamal Hoffman exchanged baskets before a pair of Lewis close range efforts made it a three point game with 46 seconds remaining download arte sendung.
Johnson set up a grandstand finish with a jump shot six seconds from time to make it a four point deficit but with Leopards forced to foul to stop the club, the visitors wrapped things up at the charity stripe.
Bennett and Nguru finished with 13 points apiece for the Big Cats, while Seaman and Georgian trialist Nodar Tenieshivili each pulled down six boards for the home side with Seaman adding five assists in his first game since tearing his Achilles a year ago.
Isaac Sims led Team USA Select with 25 points with Hoffman adding 17.