Mohawks had gone into the game without a win to their name, but the signing of American J Hendricks gave them a lift, and Leopards found him and fellow guard Ryan Nelson difficult to stop as the pair finished with 21 points apiece .
Justin Hitchman returned to his early-season form to lead the Leopards with 17 points and six rebounds, hitting a perfect nine-from-nine at the foul line .
Ladi Brown also finished with 17 points, adding four boards, while Courtney Van Beest added 10 points and six rebounds.
Three pointers proved to be the Big Cats’ Achilles heal as they converted only 18 percent of their shots from outside the arc, while Mohawks managed 35 percent including some big shots which kept the visitors’ fight-back at bay .
Scores from captain Albert Margai and Van Beest kept Leopards in touch, but an 8-2 run put the hosts in charge before Margai hit a pair of free-throws to cut his side’s deficit to 22-17 at the first break .
The second period was painful for the small group of Leopards’ fans who had driven through floods and snow to get to the game as the first five minutes saw a 13-1 run for the home team as Hendricks and Nelson hit three treys before them, and only Brown troubling the scorers .
Baskets from Will Ashby and Brown broke the run, only to see Mohawks score 10 of the next 14 points and despite a Hitchman basket, the home side went into the half-time break with a 47-29 lead .
Van Beest opened the second half scoring but it proved to be a false dawn as only Brown consistently put any points on the board, and Mohawks lead grew to 22 on a Sean Nicholson basket midway through the third period .
With coach Steve Ogunjimi turning to his bench, Dougie Bennett hit three foul shots and Brian Nguru cut the lead to 17, and Hitchman capped a 10-2 run with a pair of free-throws as Leopards fought their way back into the game to trail 62-47 at the final break
Nguru hit a three at the start of the fourth period and a 12-2 run – which included a Hitchman score after technical for Hendricks – capped by a Margai three saw the lead cut to 68-62 with four minutes remaining .
Donaldson and Hitchman exchanged baskets before Nguru made it a five point game with 154 seconds on the clock but Samuels drove to the basket before Hendricks hit a killer trey to make it a ten point game heading into the final two minutes.
Hitchman and Van Beest both hit a pair of free-throws as the home side seemed desperate to implode but the closest Leopards came was when Hitchman made it a five point game with 27 seconds remaining as the hosts wrapped up their first win of the season at the foul line.