2012 – Leopards reach final
Leopards 82 – 73 Leicester Warriors
LEOPARDS overcame a slow start to reach the EBL Division One Play-off final for the first time with a hard-fought victory against Leicester Warriors, at the Amaechi Centre on Saturday.
The Big Cats struggled in the opening stages as a Warriors team who have proved to be the surprise of the Division One season produced a fighting display, but after David Buchberger had given them the lead with the final shot of the first half, they never trailed again. Having hit some key shots in their National Cup final success, Buchberger again stepped up to score 24 points off the bench for the Big Cats.
Ousman Krubally had 15 points and 20 rebounds while Vernon Teel also had a double-double, adding 13 assists to his 24 points. Big men Zak Wells and Simonas Bublys also contributed well, adding 14 points and seven rebounds between them.
Dawaun Wells opened the scoring for Warriors on his way to a 16 point haul, and although Teel replied from the foul line, the Leopards found the going tough in the early stages. A jump shot from Eugene Pettaway – who led all scorers with 30 points – put the Warriros 11-4 ahead after four minutes of action.
Teel broke the run and Krubally added a couple of baskets as Leopards closed out the period with a 6-2 run to trail 13-10. It didn’t get noticeably better at the start of the second period as a pair of Pettaway free-throws launched a 14-2 Leicester run to open the quarter.
Only Teel troubled the scorers for Leopards as Warriors moved 27-12 ahead with six minutes in the half remaining. Teel drained from the Land of Plenty to break the tear before Bublys hit a sweet jump shot and the big Lithuanian completed the 12-0 run off a Krubally assist to make it a three point game with 4:11 on the clock.
From there on it was tip and tuck, with Buchberger burying a trey to keep Leopards in touch, and he gave Leopards their first lead of the game with 1:53 remaining when he drained a pair at the foul line before hitting the buzzer-beating three which sent them into the locker room with a 35-33 lead.
The third period proved to be Teel-time as he hit 12 points, and he provided the assist for Buchberger to make it a double-digit game going into the final minute of the quarter before hitting a jump shot with seven second remaining to send Leopards into the final break with a 58-47 lead.
Buchberger hit another three to open the fourth period, and the lead only briefly dipped into single figures, and a Lukas Volskis basket made it an 18 point game with 4:31 left in the game. A timeout from Karl Brown worked as Dawaun Wells hit three straight treys to halve that lead before Krubally broke the run, and baskets from Teel and Zak Wells saw Leopards regain the initiative, and Buchberger wrapped up the win from foul line.
Leopards: D Buchberger (24), V Teel (24), O Krubally (15), Z Wells (8), S Bublys (6), J Lockwood (2), L Volskis (2), D Norton (1), B Wilkinson, L Robertin (DNP), R Addison (DNP).