For the second straight game the Big Cats led from tip to buzzer, and will now host Derby Trailblazers in the last eight at Basildon Sporting Village on Sunday January 13 .
Greg Hernandez led the Big Cats with a 22 point, ten rebound double-double as he converted ten of his 15 field goal attempts. Carl Josey finished with 17 points and five boards, with Taner Adu adding three assists to his 14 points . Simon Cummings shook off a poor shooting night as he finished with ten rebounds and four assists to go with his seven points.
Hernandez opened the scoring with a hook shot, and Josey split a pair at the foul line to give Leopards an early lead, and it was Louis Sayers who kept the home side in the game in the early stages with five points .
Captain Taner Adu launched a long two pointer to spark a 12-0 run that included back-to-back treys from Josey as Leopards took a hold on the game they would never relinquish, and despite Williamz Omope draining a buzzer-beating three, it was the Big Cats who led 25-15 at the first break .
Tom Adorian opened the second quarter scoring for the home side, but that was the only time in the period that Leopards’ lead dipped into single figures and eight straight Hernandez points – including a pair from downtown – gave Leopards a 37-22 lead with four minutes of the half remaining .
Josey stretched the lead to 17, before scores from Tom Marin and Josey sent the Big Cats into the locker room with a 48-30 lead.
With Leopards knowing that a victory would seal second spot as the news filtered through that Medway Park had beaten Leicester Warriors, the visitors started the second half strongly as Cummings hit a pair at the line and Adu scored back-to-back baskets to make it a 24 point game .
The lead never dipped below 20 in the period, and Leopards finished strongly with a pair of Martin free-throws before he provided the assist for coach Robert Youngblood to give the visitors a 73-51 first quarter lead .
Dru Spinks – a former MK Lions team-mate of Youngblood, Lawrence Brown and Ishmael Fontaine – opened the fourth period but Henandez replied with three points to keep the Leopards’ scoring ticking over .
Dan Dunscombe completed the Leoaprds’ scoring with three minutes remaining , and both coaches sent their bench players onto the court with 2:33 on the clock, and only Storm’s Sayers troubled the scorers in the dying stages as Leopards comfortably wrapped up their place in the last eight .
Bola Adeluola led Hemel with 14 points, with Sayers and Adorian getting 11 apiece.
Leopards: G Hernandez (22), C Josey (17), T Adu (14), D Dunscombe (10), S Cummings (7), L Brown (7), R Youngblood (2), T Martin (2), I Fontaine, D Camille, J Davis.
Leopards finally picked up their first National Trophy win of the season on Sunday as they comfortably defeated Medway Park Crusaders 90-71 on the road .
Howard Crawford led the way for the fourth straight game with 26 points and ten rebounds in 29 minutes while Ish Fontaine drained six three pointers on the way to a 22 point, seven board performance .
Courtney Van Beest added 12 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes, while Sam Iwueke finished with seven points, four boards and three assists, and Kris Clark had eight assists to go with his six points in a team-high 30 minutes of action .
Against a Crusaders side who started former Big Cats Lukas Volskis and Taner Adu it was Leopards’ captain Carl Josey who opened the scoring, and a Siman Stewart and-one gave them an early 7-4 lead .
But it Fontaine who put Leopards in charge as drained three straight triples and a long two to put the visitors 25-17 ahead at the first break .
Needing a win to improve their chances of a quarter-final spot, Crusaders opened the second period strongly with a 16-2 to open a 33-27 with 4:24 remaining in the first half . An and-one from Lawrence Brown – who played only five minutes after rolling his ankle early in the game – broke the run, and Leopards reeled off 11 straight points – including six from Van Bees to take a lead they would never lose before Fontaine beat the buzzer to send the Big Cats into the locker room with a 44-37 lead .
Adu hit a pair of free-throws to open the second half, with Crawford replying at the other end, and the Big Cats’ lead was still seven points at the five minute mark in the third period
It was again Fontaine from downtown who sparked a 9-2 run to put Leopards fully in control and Clark made it a 20 point game before the visitors went into the final break with a 73-56 lead .
Crawford opened the fourth period scoring, and coach Robert Youngblood was able to run his bench for the final five minutes as Leopards ran out comfortable winners .
Leopards: H Crawford (26), I Fontaine (22), C Van Beest (12), S Iwueke (7), K Clark (6), C Josey (5), L Brown (5), S Stewart (3), M Isebor (2), T Martin (2), R Baker, I Nickson.
2007 – Leopards Thunder-struck
Worthing Thunder 112 (25,55,83) Leopards 76 (21,41,61)
A good performance by an undermanned and undersized Leopards team failed to prevent them ending their National Trophy campaign with a defeat on Saturday. Facing a Worthing Thunder side who won the league and play-offs last season, the Big Cats were without all three big men, Leigh Greenan, Nathan Wilson and Alex Scotland-Williamson, forcing coach Jon Burnell to field a small line-up, with small forward Fola Adeleke having probably his first start in his career as a centre.
Despite that, the Leopards coach was delighted with how his team played: “I was really pleased with how they responded, especially in the first half. It would have been really tough even with the big guys, but I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them.”
Deng Deng and Gareth Laws led the Big Cats’ scoring with 17 point apiece, with Carl Latham-Henry (14) and Adeleke (11) also scoring well.
After Demetrius Scott had given the hosts the lead, Leopards proceeded to shock the home side as they went on a 11-7 run to take the lead, with Deng scoring nine of the points. Back-to-back three pointers from Laws kept the Big Cats in front, and although the hosts outscored Leopards 14-4 in the closing stages of the period, another Laws trey ensured that Leopards only trailed 25-21 at the first break.
A poor start to the second period saw Thunder drain 14 straight points to effectively put the game beyond the visitors, but they continued to plug away, and a pair of Lukas Volskis free-throws sent the teams into the locker room with Worthing leading 55-41.
With Leopards struggling from the free-throw line, Thunder continued to stretch the lead in the third period, and it took a Deng lay-up followed by Laws’ fourth trey of the game to cut the deficit to 83-61 at the final break. The fourth quarter saw the onslaught continue, as Leopards continued to struggle to grab rebounds, and although captain Sam Salter drained his second three-pointer of the night, it was left Latham-Henry to wrap up the scoring for the night.
Despite the manner of the defeat, the performance and commitment of the players was far superior to the previous year, when a supposedly more experienced and better side crashed to a 45-point loss.