2017 – Leopards down Rockets
Levett Essex Leopards wrapped up their pre-season games with a 90-80 victory against Reading Rockets at the Brentwood Centre, on Saturday. The Big Cats led from tip to buzzer as they gave a glimpse of what seems likely to be a high-octane playing style ahead of Sunday’s Patrons Cup opener against Nottingham Hoods.
Against a side who are expected to challenge for the Division One title, AJ Roberts led the way with 24 points, while Ruben Saiz Colon added 15 and Shaq Lewis 14. Brentwood-based guards Will Ashby (12) and Dougie Bennett (11) also finished in double figures as the Big Cats scored 90 points against Division One opposition for the first time in 20 games.
Lewis scored six of his side’s first eight points as a 24-17 first period set Leopards up for the victory, with Ashby hit Leopards’ final four points of the stanza.
Jordan George made it a nine points game to open the second quarter as Thomas Baker’s side shaded the period by a point to lead 45-37 at half-time despite Rockets scoring the final four points following a technical foul on the bench.
The third period proved crucial as the Big Cats dominated, outscoring the visitors 27-14 with some fast flowing basketball. Lewis scored the first four points of the quarter, and both Roberts and Ashby drained from the Land of Plenty as the lead peaked at 22 before the hosts went into the final break 72-51 ahead.
The final stanza proved to be a contrast as hosts noticeably took their foot off the gas in the fourth period with the Rockets opening with a 14-2 run and the lead was whittled down to five points with three minutes remaining. But seven straight Roberts points capped by a trey saw them regain the initiative and hold on for a comfortable win.
2016 – Heaven’s beyond Leopards
A poor third period saw Levett Leopards go down 93-74 against Ballers Heaven Beyond Select in a pre-season friendly, on Friday. In a game played at the impressive facilities at Oaklands College, the Big Cats were outscored 29-18 in the third period by a talented Ballers side, and never recovered.
Coach Steve Ogunjimi again fielded a mixture of returning players and trialists, with Tosin Oyelese and Justin Hitchman making their first appearances of the season. All ten Leopards got on the scoresheet, led by 16 points from Babs Somoye, with Darrell Bethune adding 10 and Dougie Bennett seven.
Ogunjimi’s team didn’t help themselves at the foul line as they missed 15 of their 30 shots, which they will need to rectify when their Trophy campaign starts next week, and he’ll also be looking at more options at the point guard spot.
Zach Cassita, who had a superb game for the American touring side with 28 points, opened the scoring with a trey, only for Bennett to reply from downtown, and that set the tone for the first period as Bethune’s free-throw tied the score at 18-18 going into the first break.
Shaq Lewis, who struggled with foul trouble all game, opened the second quarter scoring but the visitors replied with a 12-4 before Somoye scored a lay-up to break the tear. Bennett cut the deficit to two points and Somoye kept the Big Cats within a basket before Eli Alcantar hit back-to-back shots to send the visitors into the locker room with a 36-30 lead.
Bennett opened the second half scoring, and Leopards were still in touch when Dan Scott-Robinson scored with four third period minutes remaining, but a barrage of threes from the visitors saw them go on a 17-6 run to lead 65-48 at the final break.
Scores from Hitchman and Somoye saw Leopards cut that deficit at the start of the fourth period – although the pair also missed two free-throws each – but (inevitably) Cassita hit a trey and a long two to kill off any hopes of a comeback and Ogunjimi used the rest of the game to look at options for the new season.
2018 – Essex Classic – day two round-up
London Lions lifted the inaugural Essex Classic title with a 101-50 victory against Team USA Select, on Sunday. Vince Macauley’s side led from tip-to-buzzer to complete a fourth win in the competition at the Brentwood Centr.
Lamar Roberts was the unlikely top scorer for the BBL side as the big man finished with 23 points in under 12 minutes as his team piled on the pressure down the stretch.
Lions never looked back as they opened with the game’s first nine points, with Ladarius Tubb (19), Brandon Peel (13) and Jonathon James (12) also finishing in double figures. Peel was named tournament MVP, finishing with 55 points and 30 rebounds in the four short-format games.
Team USA, who had edged tight games against Libertyville Vipers and Leopards to reach the final, were led by 14 points from Kevin May and 13 from captain Josh Flowers.
The third place play-off saw Vipers hold off a late run from Leopards to take bronze with a 75-67 victory The Big Cats had trailed 62-46 at the final break, but outscored the Americans 21-12 before running out of time.
Thomas Baker’s Leopards led 19-17 at the first break, thanks partly to a pair of treys by Andre Lavinier, but Vipers took a 34-33 into the interval before a 28-13 third period put the visitors in charge.
A Lavinier and-one saw Leopards start the fourth period well, but although they chipped away at Vipers’ lead, their late run wasn’t quite enough download mediathek ard.
Captain Sam Newman, along with debutant Luke Mascall-Wright led the hosts with 11 points apiece.
The day had started with Lions completing a perfect qualifying round record with a 77-62 victory against the Vipers . Lions rushed into a 10-0 lead after three minutes, and were 25-5 ahead at the end of the first seven-minute period.
Vipers actually outscored the London team after that, going into the half-time break trailing 45-22 before winning the third period 19-14, and the teams shared 36 points in the final stanza.
Despite going 4/12 at the foul line, former GB international Flo Larkai led the Lions with 16 points and five rebounds. Peel finished with 14 points, also adding five boards while Labarius Tabb added 12 points and Justin Robinson added seven assists to his 11 points. Dee Woods led Vipers with 15 points while Jabari Alex added 14 points and five boards.
That result left Vipers needing Leopards to beat a much-changed Team USA Select team to qualify for the final, but it was their fellow Americans who reached the final by beating the Big Cats 68-59.
It was a strong finish from the visiting side that sealed a place in the championship game as they held Leopards to just six points in the final four minutes of the game.
Twenty-one points from Flowers and 15 from Corey Hicks proved key for Select, while Hodges led Leopards with 17 points and five boards, with Newman adding nine points and five assists.