2015 – Leopards edged out in thriller
A double overtime thriller at the Brentwood Centre saw Leopards come up short as they went down 90-82 against Reading Rockets, on Friday night herunterladen.
The Big Cats missed six of their eight free-throws in the first period of overtime and hit just four of 12 foul shots across the two additional periods before tiring in final five minute.
In a game that saw three technical fouls and an ejection for the stats man – possibly a first – the Big Cats produced a much better performance than in their last three games but now they must win their final two games in the National Trophy to stand a realistic chance of progressing to the quarter-final.
Ladi Brown led the way for the home side with 20 points, while Justin Hitchman continued his impressive debut season with the Big Cats as he added 19 points. Captain Albert Margai chipped in with 12 points, while D’Montre Edwards led the Rockets with a game-high 28.
A triple from Brown helped the Big Cats take an early lead, but Rockets controlled much of the first period and a 7-0 run late in the quarter saw them take a 20-10 lead before Jamie Hayes beat the buzzer to cut the deficit to 20-12 at the first break
Brian Nguru opened the second period scoring, and threes from Brown and Will Ashby saw Leopards reduce the arrears to 26-22 with three minutes remaining, and although Joe Keeble made it a ten point game, the home side fought their way back into the game and closed out the first half with eight unanswered points – including threes from Margai and Brown – before Tom Martin cut the deficit to 34-32 going into the locker room at half-time.
Treys from Ashby and Margai saw Leopards take their first lead since the opening stages with four second half minutes gone, and it was nip and tuck for the rest of the period as Rockets took a 50-49 lead into the third break with Hayes hitting one from two at the foul line to close the period.
Five Brown points helped the Big Cats open the fourth period on a 7-0 run to take a 56-50 lead early in the fourth period and three points apiece from Hitchman and Brown put them 62-58 ahead with seven minutes on the clock. A trey from Robinson put Reading one-up with two minutes remaining before Hitchman scored back-to-back baskets to make it a three point game heading into the final minute.
Danny Carter sliced that lead to a single point before a pair of Brown foul shots looked like they had wrapped things up with just 3.5 seconds remaining as Leopards led 70-67.
But a timeout from the visitors set up a three-point play for former Leopard Dave Ajumobi who buried the ball to send the game into overtime.
The teams exchanged three pointers to open the first extra period but it was a tale of missed free-throws for the Big Cats and although Courtney Van Beest gave the hosts a 79-77 lead heading into the final 30 seconds, Edwards hit a pair at the charity stripe to force a second overtime.
Although Margai hit a trey to open the decisive period, the heavy minutes played by Leopards’ starting five showed in the additional time as their struggles continued at the foul line, and Reading answered with a 6-1 run and never trailed again to retain their unbeaten record.