2018 – Baker delighted with victory
Leopards’ coach Thomas Baker was delighted as the Big Cats wrapped up pre-season with a 90-83 victory at Reading Rockets. The home side are expected to challenge for the Division One title this season, and although neither side were at full strength, a strong finish to the game saw Baker’s side overturn a big deficit after trailing for the first 25 minutes of the game.
“Firstly a massive thanks goes to Coach Keane and the Rockets organisation for putting on the friendly” said Baker.
“We started off competing really hard we just weren’t getting the rewards we wanted. We could have easily caved in but the guys showed commitment and togetherness that I am sure we will need to shown again this season.
“We were able to stay focussed and fight for little things we needed. The guys are really open to learning and the culture we’re building was demonstrated throughout in this game. It is massive confidence boost to come away with a win but my message to them after the game was about staying humble and continuing to work. We learnt a lot but still a lot to learn. With people missing it was positive to see what we could be like. Now we have to tighten up a few things and keep focussing on the small details that lead to bigger things.”
With Leopards facing trips to Thames Valley Cavaliers in the National Trophy and Team Derby in the National Cup next weekend, Baker is ready for the new campaign: “I am really looking forward to starting the season next weekend. I am excited to see where this season will take us, it will be about adapting and evolving one game at a time.”
2019 – Leopards shot down by Rockets
Leopards wrapped up a difficult pre-season campaign with a 97-74 loss at Division One rivals Reading Rockets. A poor first half defensively saw the Big Cats 67-41 going into the locker room down, and although they scored the final 15 points of the game, they never looked capable of collecting a win.
Hafeez Abdul led the Big Cats with 27 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes while Jerelle Okoro added 16 points and three boards, and captain Chuck Duru finished with nine points.
But the visitors were unable to contain Rockets’ Nick Richards who hit nine of his ten field goal attempts on the way to a 21 point night, and with the home side out-rebounding the Big Cats 45-29 there will be plenty for coach Thomas Baker to think about.
2013 – So close for Leopards
Leopards went agonisingly close to upsetting the form-book as they went down to a narrow 85-75 home defeat at London Lions, on Sunday. In their final pre-season game, as big crowd at Brentwood saw Robert Youngblood’s team push the BBL team all the way before some poor foul shooting down the stretch cost them the chance of a shock win.
Former Lion Howard Crawford led the Big Cats with 23 points and seven rebounds, while Courtney Van Beest finished with 12 points and seven boards and another one of the seven ex-Lions in our team, Kris Clark chipped in with 11 points and four assists on his debut.
Leopards only led briefly during the early stages of the game, but with 1:51 on the clock we were down by just four. Unfortunately five straight misses at the free-throw line were punished by a pair of three-pointers from the visitors as they closed out the win, but it was still an excellent final work-out for the team ahead of Sunday’s opener against Bradford Dragons.
The Leopards started four former Lions in their line-up before adding Benji Lawman and England’s most capped player Ronnie Baker before tip-off to take their number of ex-Lions to seven plus the coaching team of Youngblood and Roger Malpass, and with three former Big Cats in the London team it was a pre-season game with more spice than normal.
Crawford scored Leopards’ opening basket of the game, sandwiched between threes frim Margai and Sturt before back-to-back Clark treys saw Leopards take their only lead of the game at 8-6. Another ex-Lion Kris Clark scored twice from downtown to answer the early barrage from the visitors and give Leopards their only lead of the game at 8-6 with three minutes gone, but a Sturt jumper sparked a 9-2 run to give Lions a lead they would never lose, and Mike Martin’s trey sent them into the first break with a 17-13 lead.
A pair of Martin baskets followed by a Brown three saw that led grow to 11 and Lions kept that double-digit margin for most of the period with a Margai trey making it 38-24 with a minute left before Leopards finished strongly with the final six points of the half – including four from Lawman – to make it an eight point game heading into the locker room.
Van Beest opened the third period scoring from the foul line, and the quarter proved to be a high-scoring one as a trey from Carl Josey and some good foul shooting from Lawrence Brown kept Leopards in touch at 66-56 going into the final period.
Van Beest again opened the scoring in the fourth quarter with a pair at the charity stripe for Leopards, and (yet) another former Ish Fontaine made it a five point game with five and half minutes remaining. Lions responded with a six point run capped by Margai which looked to have sealed the win but Crawford to0k control of the game with seven straight points including a trey to cap the run as he saw dragged the home side back into the game to close the gap to four points with as many minutes remaining.
Martin and Crawford exchanged free-throws to leave it 78-74 with 1:51 on the clock but Leopards then missed three straight at the foul line and Sturt nailed a three. The Big Cats woes at the line continued as Fontaine missed another pair and former GB international Joseph hit the dagger trey to seal the win for the Lions but coach Youngblood will have been impressed with his side’s display.
Leopards: H Crawford (23), C Van Beest (12), K Clark (11), L Brown (9), I Fontaine (7), B Lawman (6), C Josey (5), R Baker (2), T Martin, I Nickson, M Isobar (DNP), G Naiwo (DNP), S Iwibre (DNP)O Diro (DNP).
2007 – Leopards beat hosts to reach final
Kent Crusaders 62 (17,24,42) Leopards 80 (24,41,59)
A strong second period paved the way for Leopards to reach the final of the Kent Crusaders tournament with a comfortable victory against the hosts, on Saturday.
Fola Adeleke led the way for the Big Cats with 19 points, backed up by 13 from Leigh Greenan and 12 from Deng Deng as Jon Burnell’s team chalked their first win of the pre-season campaign.
After the home side took the lead with the first play of the bench, Leopards took control as four Adeleke points and a Lukas Volskis trey helped them scored ten unanswered points. Kent did keep in touch , but Adeleke scored Leopards’ final seven points of the period to send them into the first break with a 24-17 lead.
After a tight start to the second period, Leopards blew the game only with a 15-3 run which took the final six minutes of the half. Greenan and Deng each scored six points during the run as Crusaders struggled to keep up with Leopards’ fast breaks.
The second half saw little between the two sides, with Burnell experimenting with his line-ups – giving Adeleke a chance to play the point in a big rotation, but also going with a small line-up which saw Deng as the biggest player in the team. The home side reduced to the arrears to 17 points going into the final period following a three-pointer which appeared to have been shot after the horn, but any thoughts of a comeback were extinguished as scores from trialist Nick O’Harabe and Greenan together with a trey from Sam Salter saw Leopards open the final period with a 7-2 run.
The home side put some respectability into the scoreline with the final five points – again hitting a three after time appeared to have expired, but it was the Big Cats who progressed to meet Bristol Academy Flyers in Sunday afternoon’s final.
Leopards: F Adeleke 19, L Greenan 13, D Deng 12, G Laws 9, L Volskis 9, S Salter 8, N O’Harabe 8, M Odomoso 2.