Dave Ajumobi proved to be the hero for the Big Cats coming up with a steal in the dying seconds and icing the game from the free-throw line, as well as providing the defence which kept the Big Cats in the game in arguably their most frustrating performance of the season .
Will Ashby opened the scoring for the visitors, but that was the only time they led the first period, and they were stuck on six points for over five minutes before a timeout with the hosts leading 12-6 saw Leopards level the game at 12 following scores from Ajumobi and Albert Margai .
But that was as good as for the visitors as a 12-2 run from the hosts saw the Big Cats trail 24-14 at the first break.
It didn’t get any better for the Leopards as a 10-3 run saw them trail 34-27 with 3:10 remaining in the first half, but a timeout from Youngblood steadied things for the visitors and they finished the half strongly to cut the margin to 39-37 going into the locker room .
Ajumobi hit a pair at the foul line to open the second half, and it was still a two point game with four minutes of the third period, before a basket former Leopard and England international Mike Martin sent Warriors into the final break 52-48 ahead .
Ajumobi – who led the Leopards with 16 points – halved that lead with the opening scoring of the fourth period, and Leopards forced their way back in the game with Ajumobi tying things at 55 with 5:55 remaining .
Courtney Van Beest gave Leopards their first lead since the early stages with a jump shot, only for Martin to level things and force a timeout with 3:57 on the clock .
Leopards forced a 24 second violation and the game was tied with 23.9 seconds remaining on the clock and Westminster having possession after yet another timeout . But Ajumobi stole the ball with 7.1 seconds remaining and drove to the basket where he was hit what could easily have been called an intentional foul . He picked himself up, but missed the first free-throw before hitting the second and Leopards hung on for the victory.
A depleted Big Cats team missing Ronnie Baker, Carl Josey, Iaon Nickson and Sam Iwueke were outscored 16-8 in the extra period as they ran out of steam against the hosts .
Howard Crawford led the way for the visitors with 24 points, missing out on a double-double by a single rebound, while Kris Clark finished with 17 points, eight boards and seven assists . Courtney Van Beest, starting in place of captain Josey who was missing with a back injury, had seven rebounds to go with his ten points.
Tom Ward led the home side with 25 points in a 45 minute display, with Franc Garcia Garrido adding 23 .
Ish Fontaine opened the scoring with a three-pointer and with Van Beest also getting on the scoresheet, Leopards rushed into a 7-2 lead .
Crawford made it a seven point game with a pair of free-throws, and Lawrence Brown kept Leopards comfortably ahead when he converted Tom Martin’s assist before a 7-0 run sparked by Garcia Garrido saw Magic back on level terms, and Clark sent Leopards into the first break tied at 17 .
Siman Stewart launched a 6-0 run to open the second period, and although the home side hit back with a Ward trey, the Big Cats were still 28-26 ahead at the five minute mark .
A technical foul on coach Robert Youngblood saw Ward give Magic their first lead of the game from the charity stripe, and Leopards went almost six minutes without a point before Clark ended the drought with a free-throw .
Leopards started the second half well with Crawford and Van Beest putting them up by a point before Jack Minister drained a three to restore Magic’s lead,
The hosts led for almost all of the period without being able to extend their advantage about four, and Stewart briefly gave the Big Cats a point lead with 46 seconds on the clock before Oyefusi sent the home side into the fourth period leading 50-49 .
Crawford opened the fourth quarter with a pair of free-throws to put the Big Cats ahead again, and Fontaine drained from the Land of Plenty to make it a three-point game.
But a 10-2 run saw the hosts open a 61-56 lead before Crawford broke the run, and Clark tied the game heading into the final three minutes of regulation time.
There were just four points scored in that final three minutes as Ryan Lohfink put the hosts ahead with 1:42 remaining, and when Clark’s three-point effort rimmed out with five seconds on the clock, Crawford grabbed the rebound and stuffed it home to tie the score.
Magic called a timeout, but Ward turned the ball over from inbounds leaving Crawford see his attempted buzzer-beating three rim out and the game went into overtime.
That extra period proved to be five minutes too far for the Big Cats as the home side opened with a 9-0 run and it wasn’t until the 1:37 mark that Clark ended the drought from the foul line, but by then it was too late as Leopards tasted league defeat for the first time since March.
2000 – Bears mauled in Trophy