On this day – Oct 24

2015 – Thunder silenced in stunning opener

Essex Leopards v Kent Crusaders 18 Apr 2015; Ladi Brown;Leopards opened their defence of the Division One title with a stunning 89-57 victory at Worthing Thunder, on Saturday. A 15-3 run at the start of the second half saw the Big Cats break open a tight game before the home side were destroyed 35-14 in the final period to give Leopards the win.

Ladi Brown and Will Ashby returned to the Leopards’ team after missing the previous week’s Trophy loss at Worthing, and led the way with 19 points apiece, Brown adding nine rebounds. Justin Hitchman added 17 points and five boards, while Tom Martin finished with 12 points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes of action.

Having watched Tom Ward torch them for 31 points the previous week, Leopards closed down the Worthing captain, limiting him to just four points on 2/10 shooting and forced him into ten turnovers. There were no signs of a comfortable victory for Leopards in the first as Louis Allen opened the scoring with a trey, and it took until two minutes for Hitchman to put Leopards on the scoreboard.

Hitchman did briefly put the visitors ahead at 4-3 when he converted one of Tosin Oyelese’s ten rebounds but that was their only lead in the first period as Worthing broke open a tied game to close out the quarter on a 7-2 run to lead 18-13.

Joe Carter made it a seven point game to  open the second period before a pair of Oyelese baskets kept Leopards in touch but it was during the final five minutes of the quarter that the kind of defence that had won the Big Cats the title started to show. A pair of Ashby treys split by a Martin score put the Big Cats 32-30 uo and Martin made it a four point game before a Josh Brown trey ended a three minute drought for the hosts and cut Leopards’ half-time lead to 34-33.

Brown opened the second half scoring, followed by a Hitchman basket, and the Big Cats closed the hosts’ offence down as they were limited to just four points in the first five minutes of the period. Brown added a further five points on his way to an 18 point, 11 rebound double-double but both Hitchman and Ashby added to the score as the Big Cats went on a 15-4 run. Captain Albert Margai drained from the Land of Plenty before Courtney Van Beest sent Steve Ogunjimi’s side into the final break with a 54-43 lead.

Hitchman and Luis Allen exchanged baskets to open the fourth period before Ashby hit a triple to make it a 14 point game. Brown sparked a mini Thunder run with a pair of three point plays to cut the lead to eight but that proved to be as good as it got for the home team. Ashby was fouled on an attempted trey and hit all three free-throw to spark a 9-0 run which gave the Big Cats a 17 point lead with five minutes remaining. Brown hit a trey for Thunder but Brian Nguru replied with a three that sparked another ten unanswered points to seal the win.

1999

2004 – Leopards shot down by Arrows

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