They led 70-66 with 3:40 on the clock but never scored again as the visitors closed out the game on a ten-point run.
Poor starts to box halves saw Leopards make life difficult for themselves as they were outscored 12-2 in the first five minutes of both the first and third periods . The scoring droughts proved to be the Big Cats’ undoing, with just four points in the combined 15 minutes and in a game that was tied with 153 seconds remaining, that proved to be key
A pair of Jack Minister treys saw Magic open well before Tosin Oyelese hit a jump shot off Albert Margai’s assist only to see Manchester score another four points .
Will Ashby doubled the hosts’ tally at the foul line before Ladi Brown drained a trey and a Justin Hitchman dunk cut the deficit to 21-13 at the first break
Three pointers from Brown and Ashby kept Leopards in touch in the second period before Courtney Van Beest launched a 13-4 run which ended with a three-point play from the same player as the hosts take the lead for the first time .
Only Tosin Oyelese troubled the scorers for the home side in the opening six minutes of the second half as Minister hit another triple and Magic built a ten point lead with six and half minutes third period minutes gone .
Hitchman’s jump shot finally saw the hosts’ side of the scoreboard change and Leopards hit six through Brown and Dougie Bennett as Leopards dragged themselves back into the game and Jamie Hayes cut the deficit to 59-55 going into the final break .
Hitchman drained a three to cap a 7-0 run as Leopards started the fourth period well, and the game was nip and tuck, with threes from Brown and Margai keeping the hosts just in front .
Hitchman scored what proved to be Leopards final points of the game with a jump shot, and although the Big Cats could question how Magic’s tough defence failed to produce a single foul in their favour for over 11 minutes, poor shot selection down the stretch saw the visitors wrap up the win .
Brown led the hosts with 18 points, with Ashby adding 13, Hitchman 12 and Van Beest 11 along with six rebounds. Minister led the visitors with 18 points and five rebounds, with Anuba adding 15 points and eight boards .
It was a case of de ja vu for Leopards on Saturday as they went down 84-70 at Kent Crusaders for their first loss in the group stage of the National Trophy .
Robert Youngblood’s team had lost 78-65 when the sides met three weeks before, but the game was ordered to be replayed due to a sub-standard court .
But the Big Cats were again out-worked by a young Crusaders’ team on a court that was almost identical to one ruled illegal by Basketball England .
Will Ashby opened the scoring with a trey and then hit a long jumper to put Leopards 5-4 ahead . But that was as good as it got for the visitors, and although Dave Ajumobi also scored from beyond the arc, the home side took a 20-13 lead into the first break .
Swedish centre Lukas Winegarner opened the second period scoring with a trademark tip-in and hit a three midway through the period, but the hosts soon pulled away and it took a trey from Jordan Williams to cut the deficit to 37-27 at half-time .
An Ashby drive to the basket made it a seven point game with three second half minutes gone, but despite veteran Ronnie Baker taking control late in the third period and Ajumobi draining a three, a 12-0 run from the home side saw them go into the final break with a commanding 63-44 lead .
Albert Margai opened the fourth period scoring, but Leopards never looked capable of getting the margin into single figures as the home side closed out the win .
Ashby led the way for the Big Cats with five three pointers in his 19 points, with Ajumobi adding 11 and Baker ten.
Leopards are now second in the group with a 3-1 record, and although they are definitely through to the last eight, they will look to win their final two games to get home court advantage in the quarter and semi-finals .