On this day – Dec 22

2013 – LEOPARDS LET IT SLIP

The Big Cats led by 18 at the mid-point in the second period and were still 13 up at half-time before a terrible third quarter saw them outscored 25-6 and they never regained the momentum . Howard Crawford again led Leopards with 24 points and seven rebounds, while captain Carl Josey drained five three pointers on his way to 17 points and five boards . Kris Clark finished with eight assists to go with 14 points and four rebounds. The top four in EBL Division One have now all lost two games, with the Big Cats going into their Christmas break in fourth spot with games in hand over all of the sides above them . Leopards return to action on the first weekend in January with a double header in Yorkshire, facing Leeds Carnegie on the Saturday and Bradford Dragons the following day . The Big Cats’ next home game sees them host Bristol Academy Flyers at the Brentwood Centre (3pm) on Sunday January 12, while a week later Newcastle Eagles are the visitors in the BBL Trophy, tip-off 4pm . Rockets were led by 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists from Josh Wilcher along with 22 points and eight boards from Gabriel Diaz-Morero who made a miraculous recovery from injury to play 27 minutes . Leopards’ coach Robert Youngblood couldn’t hide his disappointment after the game: “I changed the offence around during the week, and it worked really well . We spread he floor and got open shots, but in the second half everything was one-on-one, and it all went to pieces. “We’re six and two, and I should be happy with that, but we really threw this one away.” Crawford opened the scoring for the Big Cats, and it was raining threes in the early stages of the game as Josey hit two from downtown and Ish Fontaine buried a triple to put them 13-8 ahead after four minutes . Six straight points from Crawford capped by a dunk kept the hosts ahead, and although Diaz-Morero hit three of four foul shots down the stretch, the hosts 28-19 at the first break . Clark and Courtney Van Beest each hit baskets split by a Diaz-Morero trey, and a 9-2 run capped by a Josey basket off a George Naiwo assist made it 45-27. A 6-1 Rockets’ run saw them fight their way back into the game before Josey scored again from the Land of Plenty to give Leopards a 49-36 half-time lead. Crawford was the only Leopard to score in the third period as Rockets opened with an 8-0 run in the first four minutes. Crawford’s basket didn’t slow the visitors down, and they reeled off seven straight points as Diaz-Morero levelled the score with 3:34 on the clock. Crawford’s basket with 2:58 remaining put Leopards back in the lead for what proved to be the final time in the game, and three point plays from Diaz-Morero and Lewis Champion helped Rockets go into the final break with a 61-55 lead. Crawford and Diaz-Morero  exchanged baskets to open the fourth period, but four Clark points saw Leopards pull within two at 65-63 with 7:23 on the clock. That proved to be as close as it got, with Wilcher starting and ending an 8-0 Reading run as they wrapped up the win.

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