While the name Leopards disappeared from the league tables for the 2020/21 season, the club continued as Oaklands Wolves, and we look at first campaign of The Big Dogs.
Wolves senior men’s coach Thomas Baker was in a positive mood despite seeing his side go down 102-74 against Thames Valley Cavaliers in their opening L Lynch Trophy game, on Saturday.:“It was great to see basketball being played again and it was fantastic to have it at Oaklands” he said.
“Early on we played really well and we showed what we can do. Unfortunately we got punished when we stopped competing by a tough Thames Valley team. Excellent job by everyone involved at Oaklands in terms of getting the court ready. I’m looking forward to stepping out on court again next weekend.”
Wolves’ predecessors Essex Leopards had never beaten the Cavs in eight attempts, and they went into the game as massive underdogs, but they stayed in touch during the first period and a Toby Gastaldi-Davies three-pointer saw them cut Cavs’ lead to 22-20 at the first break.
The second quarter saw both sides go on big runs, and it was Wolves who struck first as Jordan Santiago opened the scoring to launch an 18-2 run in which he scored ten points as the hosts opened a 38-24 lead with four minutes gone.
That was as good as it got for the home side, though, as Blaine Freckleton broke the run with an and-one and Cavs proceeded to close out the half on a 20-0 run to lead 44-38 going into the locker room. Though the locker rooms weren’t actually open.
Freckleon made it a ten point game early in the second half before Wolves’ captain Evan Walshe finally ended his team’s drought but Cavs dominated the second half to wrap up the win.
Santiago and Walshe each finished with 13 points for Wolves while Obi Egbunike showed little rust after 15 months out through injury with 12 points. Cavs’ Taylor Johnson picked up where he left off last season with 34 points, while another star from last year – Hakeem Syla finished with 22 points. Thames Valley Cavaliers’ coach Robert Banks had praise for hosts Oaklands despite their Division One debut ending with a 28-point loss:” Getting back to playing competitive basketball again is one of the best feelings in the world” he said . “Many thanks to all the support staff for making the L Lynch Trophy a real success & an excellent atmosphere! The two teams competed hard 40 minutes, hats off to the Oaklands Wolves , we feel very fortunate to be able to complete and get the win”.
Jordan Santiago had 14 points and six rebounds for the home-town Wolves, with Jerel Layne added 11 points.
A high scoring first period saw Poleon put Storm 13-2 up after just over three minutes, but Wolves stayed in touch as Tony Gastaldi-Davis hit a trey to make it an eight point game before Santiago reduced the hosts’ deficit to six at the midway stage of the quarter, and Storm went into the opening break 36-25 ahead.
A strong start to the second quarter saw Walshe hit five points as Wolves stayed in touch and Walshe rounded off a 23-18 period in his team’s favour as they cut the deficit to 54-48 at half-time.
Ray Akpofure made it a one point game with just under two minutes on the clock before Walshe levelled from outside the arc before Lewis replied with five straight points to give his side a 72-67 final break lead and seven consecutive Williams points put Storm in the driving seat as they blitzed the hosts to wrap up the win.
Wolves’ coach Thomas Baker remained positive after a good three quarters from his side: “A tough start to the game had us chasing early but credit to the guys we fought our way back in. We always knew Storm had the quality to cause us problems and credit to Dru [Spinks] and his guys they were ruthless in the fourth.
“Overall we had moments of success in the game and we managed to play our brand of basketball for longer than the previous week which is pleasing, if we can correct a few issues and continue our learning in the same vein, it will be an exciting year.”
The home side held the big-spending visitors scoreless for more than five minutes to open the fourth period and finished on a 12-0 run to leave Baker pleased with a good finish:
“It was great being back out on the floor with the guys, another step on the journey that this new programme is going on” he said. “Credit to Hemel, we knew they would be tough and they proved their quality throughout the game. I was extremely impressed with a number of the college guys, they stepped up and demonstrated what it means to be part of this team.”
Jordan Santiago led Wolves with 24 points nine rebounds and five steals, while Oaklands Academy graduate Ahmed Ketiri added eight points, five rebounds three, blocks and two assists. American pair Mike Williams (27 points and four rebounds) and Greg Poleon (18 points and eight boards) led the visitors.
Although captain Santiago twice levelled in the early stages, it was one-way traffic for much of the first three periods as Storm showed why they are one of the favourites for the league title. Despite treys from Santiago and James Cummings, it took a late basket from the latter to cut Hemel’s led 26-16 at the opening break.
Youngsters Kane Daley and Ollie Wright along with Santiago both scored from downtown in the second period but Storm hit four three-points as they outscored Wolves 30-14 to lead 56-30 going into the locker room.
The onslaught continued in the third period as they opened with a 16-2 run, Santiago the only home player to trouble the scorer, and although Ray Akpofure capped an 8-2 tear following a lovely Ketiri assist, before Ketiri hit a triple, Storm went into the final break leading 83-43.
Daley launched a strong fourth period for Wolves as they scored the first eight points of the quarter before a pair of Jack Burnell treys in a 10-0 Storm run took the visitors’ lead to 42 points before Oaklands finished strongly with Ketiri launching the 12-2 run as a young lineup finished well.
A massive fourth period comeback wasn’t quite enough as Wolves’ men went down 101-93 at high-flying Thames Valley Cavaliers, on Saturday.
Thomas Baker’s team outscored the big-spending hosts across three of the quarters but a poor second quarter proved costly as the 36-15 in the stanza proved fatal, but the Wolves’ coach was pleased with his side’s second half display:
“We started well, showing our intent to play our style and we looked good getting some early success” he said. “Unfortunately we backed off and struggled in the second quarter and TVC punished us with their firepower. What was pleasing that we pushed and carried on until the end and this is something to build upon for our next game.”
Jordan Santiago again led the way for Wolves with 33 points – including three massive triples – 13 rebounds, five steals and three assists. But unlike last week’s loss against Hemel, he received plenty of support from his team-mates with Kane Daley adding 18 points, Ahmed Ketiri finishing with 15 points and six boards and Ollie Wright posting 15 points in just 15.5 minutes.
A Wolves team missing probable starters Jerrell Layne and Dom Scott-Robinson along with Toby Gastaldi-Davies stayed in touch throughout the first period as Ketiri hit back-to-back lay-ups to open their scoring before Wright’s basket put the visitors 12-11 up with six minutes gone.
A pair of Ray Akpofure baskets kept Wolves in touch but despite Santiago’s free-throw, Oaklands trailed 21-15 at the first break. The second period proved to be little short of a disaster as Cavs outscored the young visitors 36-14, and despite Santiago tying things at 23 with a dunk early in the period the home team led 57-32 going into the locker room.
Five Daley points from Oaklands Academy player Daley opened the visitors’ second half scoring with a shot inside and a trey and Ketiri hit a triple before Santiago’s floater made it a 15 pints game as Oaklands started well. But that proved to be as close as it got in the third period and despite a Santiago triple the home side pulled away again to lead 80-56 at the final break.
Scores from Wright and Ketiri narrowed the gap at the start of the fourth, only for Hawley to convert three at the foul line following a Veiz Cani foul, and it was a 29-point game going into the final seven minutes although Santiago’s massive triple reduced the arrears the lead grew to 31 a minute later.
It was Daley launched the late run with a trey before Santiago hit five straight points and some excellent defence saw Wright score from both inside and outside the three-point lane as Wolves’ defence saw them repeatedly score in transition.. It was Wright’s steal and score that forced a timeout from Cavs’ coach Robert Banks with 55 seconds on the clock and the lead down to 11, and Adan scored on the resumption to effectively end the comeback but there was time for Daley to add to his tally at the foul line and Wright to hit a trey as Wolves kept playing until the final buzzer.
Blaine Freckleton led the hosts with 18, while Hakeem Syla was kept relatively quiet by his standards as he finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Thomas Baker’s side had fought back from a 17 point third period deficit before just coming up short down the stretch and – despite being obviously frustrated by the result, the Wolves play-caller had praise for his team:
“This one was tough to take” he said. “I thought we had it but unfortunately it got away from us. It was a crazy game with lots of fouls and free throws. We did excellent to battle back from being down 17 to end up leading.
“We needed to show a bit more belief on the offensive end and fight a bit harder on the defensive end. Nevertheless we are heading in the right direction, we must keep pushing ourselves to get better every game.”
Dragons coach Chris Mellor was impressed with the young Wolves team: “We never really got into any kind of rhythm but credit to Oaklands they played hard and we never could quite put the game out of reach” he said “65 fouls in the game added to the entertainment along with 86 free throws, I’m just relieved we got the win and didn’t run out of players.”
The current Wolves side can trace its roots back to 1994 as London/Essex Leopards and at two hours and 15 minutes it was the longest game, excluding overtime, in club history as the referees called 65 fouls and sent the teams to the foul line an eye-watering 86 times.
Jordan Santiago again led Baker’s team with 18 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals before fouling out. Kane Daley also finished with 18 points, adding three rebounds and as many assists. Obi Egbunike also had a double-double with 14 points and ten boards, adding three blocks. while Jerrell Layne had 11 points despite foul trouble limiting him to just 15 minutes of action. Ollie Wright and Ahmed Ketiri completed a balanced scoring effort with ten points apiece.
Rihards Sulcs led Dragons with a 16 point, 12 rebound double-double, with Andreas Lycoudis also adding 16 points, while Ricky Fetske and Walsh both finishing with 14 points apiece.
A slow start from both teams saw a pair of Ketiri free throws give Wolves a 4-2 lead after four minutes but despite a pair of triples from Layne, the home side went into the first break with a 23-12 lead.
Wright scored from downtown to open the second period, but Fetske extended Dragons’ lead to 31-19 after four minutes before Egbunike launched a personal 7-0 run with a three-point play to drag Wolves back within five points but Dragons finished the half strongly as six points from Tyme Regent-Bascombe helped them lead 45-35 at the half-time break.
Wolves only shot 21-from-37 at the foul line, and Wright missed three free-throws to open the third period before the youngster made amends with a pair of jump shots. Santiago kept the deficit at ten with a drive to the basket after five minutes before Walsh hit a triple to cap a 7-0 run which put Dragons 62-45 ahead.
But a feature of the young Wolves team this season has been their refusal to quit, and six Daley points together with a Santiago triple trimmed the deficit to 68-59 at the final break. Santiago and Lycoudis exchanged triples to open the fourth period before treys from Santiago and Layne helped Wolves score ten unanswered points to tie the game at 73 with five minutes on the clock.
But Layne left the game a few seconds later and was swiftly followed by Santiago after a highly debatable double-foul call. Daley hit a trey to put the hosts ahead for the first time since the early stages as Wolves took a 79-78 lead into the final three minutes.
Daley kept Wolves in touch as Dragons lived at the foul line, going to the stripe 13 times compared to the hosts’ zero attempts,, but an unsportsmanlike foul on Toby Gastaldi-Davies and a rare technical foul on Baker saw Bradford take an 86-81 lead into the final minute. Daley’s lay-up trimmed the lead before Wright assisted on a Ketiri basket made it a one point game into going into the final 30 seconds before Walsh drained to kill the hosts’ hopes.
Wolves’ coach Thomas Baker was pleased with his side’s first half performance as they went down 83-77 at home against Worthing Thunder, on Saturday.
Wolves were unable to collect a third straight win as they went down 102-72 against Bradford Dragons, on Saturday.
In a game staged in Nottingham due to both of Dragons’ courts being unavailable, the “home” team’s size an experience proved to be too much for the young Wolves side.
With Thomas Baker unavailable, Ibrahim Gariba coached the team for the first time, and Wolves were also without forward James Cummings who picked up a injury in training along with Jerrell Layne and Caleb Tabernar. To add to their woes leading scorer Jordan Santiago left the game with an ankle injury in the third period having already suffered a cut chin earlier in the quarter.
Academy player Kane Daley continued the form he had shown in the win against Leicester Warriors, leading Wolves with 28 points, including three three-pointers, while Santiago added 12 points and seven rebounds. Obi Egbunike finished with eight points despite sitting out the second period due to foul trouble while AJ Roberts added seven points, four assists, three rebounds and as many steals.
Wolves started well with Egbunike and Santiago converting layups before Roberts drained a trey to give them a 7-0 lead but that was as good as it got for them as Dragons replied with a 9-2 run. Ahmed Ketiri put the visitors up by two midway through the first period and Tony Gastaldi-Davies marked his return to the team with a floating jump shot to put his side 13-11 ahead.
Fetske and Santiago exchanged pairs of free-throws to Wolves ahead but Tyme Regent-Bascombe, hit a trey to give Dragons the lead and Chris Mellor’s side closed out the quarter on a 12-2 run to lead 25-17 at the first break.
Daley hit a jump shot to open the second period and drained three at the charity stripe after being Cousins but Dragons’ size and experience showed as they outscored 19-8 during the rest of the quarter as Sulcs’ free-throw gave his side a 46-31 half-time lead.
Lycoudis opened the second half with a triple, and although Egbunike marked his return with a jump shot, Dragons outscored Wolves 32-17 in the period to effectively end the game as a contest. Santiago returned in a fresh vest after cutting his chin, but he landed badly later in the period and left the game as his side trailed 78-48 at the final break.
Daley opened the fourth period scoring, and Gariba used the quarter to give his remaining nine players court time with point guard Tom Hughes hitting a couple of nice jump shots as the teams wrapped up the game by sharing 48 points in the final stanza.
Dragons were led by Ricky Fetske’s 25 point, 16 rebound double-double, while Rihards Sulcs added 21 points and Great Osobor also had a double-double with 18 points and 13 boards.