25 years of Leopards – season 17

2011/12 – the greatest season in the history of the new Leopards. The previous season had seen a runners-up spot in Division One and three semi-finals, but it was totally eclipsed by a campaign which saw a league, play-off and National Cup treble.
There was big news early in the summer as Mark Clark stepped down as coach, handing the job over to Dejan Mihevc, who had coached the Division Four team the previous season, and American forward Ousman Krubally re-signed for the Big Cats.
It was a big deal for any import to return to the Leopards, only Troy Selvey had ever come back for a second year, but the club were getting arguably Division One’s best player back and he had probably only missed out on the league MVP the previous season because he didn’t join until December. While the core of Leopards’ side would still be built around Barking Abbey players, the Hoops 4 Health coaching allowed them to add some real quality around Krubally and the youngsters. Krubally’s (arguable) status as D1’s best player was challenged by the signing of point guard Vernon Teel who went on to become a triple-double machine to again deny Krubally the league MVP award as Leopards became the first club to fill the top two places in the end of season voting. They were joined by American David Buchberger and Australian John Lister who both had British passports but could have got into most decent Division One sides as an import, while Lukas Volskis also returned to give Leopards a solid, senior, backbone.
The season started well with progress made in both the National Cup and Trophy, although it was certainly squeaky bum time in the second round tie as London Westside had a shot to win the game against a Leopards side forced to sit Teel down due to competition rules. That game was played at Shenfield Sports Centre as neither Barking Abbey or Brentwood were available, and became one of four courts the Leopards would use as a home venue in the season.
It was a busy start to the campaign as Leopards had accepted a late invite to play in the BBL Trophy following the collapse of Essex Pirates (whose plan for world domination had just one flaw – they had no money) and although their hopes were hit by injuries to Buchberger and Krubally, their performances in the four games against MK Lions and Leicester Riders were decent and Mihevc later said that the experience helped the younger players later in the season.

By the start of November Leopards had reached the knockout stage of the Trophy and the Cup quarter-final but the start of the league season couldn’t have gone much worse. Defeats at Brixton and Leicester Warriors in the opening two games could be explained by injury problems but they were followed by an easily the worst performance of the season as they lost 111-77 at Bradford. It was a sombre Leopards team who stayed over in Yorkshire that night as they prepared to face the Dragons again, this time in the National Cup. A must improved performance saw Leopards progress to the final four with an 86-66 victory.
A 91-87 win against table toppers Bristol Academy Flyers got Leopards off the mark in Division One but another defeat, this time at Medway Pak Crusaders, saw them bottom of the table. With discussions about roster changes, the team finally kicked into gear with a 108-92 victory at Westminster before a 96-84 win at Tees Valley Mohawks sent Leopards into the National Cup final, and banished such thoughts as the team headed into the Christmas break.
Any thoughts that three weeks off would break momentum were quickly dispelled as London Capital were hammered at Brentwood and Worthing were beaten home and away in the Trophy quarter-final and league before Lister drained 31 points as Mohawks were beaten by 33 for a perfect Cup final warm-up. The final in Sheffield was a rollercoaster of the game – it was almost the whole season in a nutshell. Flyers had blown into a 24-10 first period lead, and we’d only trimmed it to 38-26 at half-time. A low-scoring third period saw the teams share 24 points before the fourth period comeback saw us go on the game winning run which sealed the victory We were actually four up with five seconds left and tried to defend Greg Streete’s triple which dropped through as the buzzer sounded. Somehow we all got home that night.
There was a post-Cup hangover the following week as a flat performance saw an 89-82 loss at Bristol in the Trophy semi-finals. Irrationally it’s a defeat that still rankles eight years later, as this team should have completed a clean sweep of all four trophies.

But with four straight league wins under their belt, Leopards never looked back as they reeled off 13 straight victories to go old rivals Reading Rockets needing a victory to seal the Division One championship with two games to spare. Another dominant performance – pretty much all of the performances were dominant in a run of 19 straight league wins – saw Leopards win 80-60 to clinch their first league title since the BBL days.

There was no hangover this time, Capital were hammered on their own court the following day despite Mihevc running his full rotation for 40 minutes and the league campaign was wrapped up with another win against Worthing. All three play-off games proved to be revenge missions as Leopards faced sides who’d beaten them in that early season losing run. Medway Park were beaten 93-75 at Basildon Sporting Village (yep, another new venue) in a game where Leopards were 83-51 up at the final break. Buchberger leading the scoring with 22 and Volskis adding 19 to set up the trip to a third straight Final Fours weekend in Manchester where the treble was completed in style.

5 July 2011
Mihevc to coach Leopards
Leopards have announced that Dejan Mihevc will coach them in 2011/12 season after Mark Clark stepped down from the position. Clark led the Big Cats to a best ever second place in EBL Division One last season, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the National Trophy and play-offs, and the last eight of the National Cup. However, the former Great Britain Women’s coach will now concentrate on his job at Director of the Barking Abbey Basketball Academy, which supplies many of Leopards’ players.
Mihevc coached the Leopards’ Division Four team last season, and makes the step up with a wealth of international experience. He has coached the Slovenian under-14, under-15 and under-16 sides as well as being assistant coach for the under-18 team and general manager of the country’s youth teams. The 33-year-old has also worked for FIBA Europe and is fluent in five languages.
Mihevc is looking forward to the challenge of winning trophies with the Big Cats: “Leopards is a well organized club and along side Barking Abbey Basketball Academy it combines a perfect environment for running a quality basketball programme. I am very happy to be a head coach for next season and I am quite exited to work closer with the Leopards management. I am aware that won’t be easy to make a good result especially as we will have a lot of young players. But we will work hard go step by step and I believe that we will produce some players and have a successful season. ”
Leopards general manager Dave Ryan was delighted with the club’s new appointment: “We appreciate the job Mark did for us last year, but we understand he needs to concentrate on the academy in its entirety. Dejan has a great basketball CV, he’s enthusiastic and utterly focussed on the job. I’m sure he’ll be a great success with the Leopards, and we’re already working on putting together a championship winning team for 2011/12.”
Club chairman Fred Dicker was also pleased with the appointment of Mihevc: “We’re delighted to have Dejan coaching us, and we believe we are getting things right on and off for the course as we look forward to a successful season.”

10 July 2011
Ous the man for Leopards

Dejan Mihevc has made his first signing as Leopards coach with the announcement that Ousman Krubally will return for a second season with the Big Cats.

Krubally was narrowly piped for both the EBL Division Player-of-the-Year and top scoring awards last season, and Mihevc is delighted to secure his signing for the 2011/2 campaign:

“There aren’t many players like him. He was one of the best players in the country last season and his high energy and great working ethic is very important for our programme. Even though he had a big season, I think this year will be his year.

“He will be with the team from beginning and he should assume a position of leadership in the team and I think that he’s very hungry to do this. I see him fitting in this roll very well.”

Krubally joined the Big Cats in early December, and was edged out by a single vote in the player-of-year poll as Reading Rockets’ Niko Scott took the award.

He also went agonisingly close in the scoring award as Leeds Carnegie’s Adrian Fenyn finished with 22.5 points per game to Krubally’s 22.39.

The 23-year-old American forward did take the rebounding award with a massive 13.22 boards per game and also had the highest ranking per game which takes account of the four main statistical categories.

Leopards General Manager Dave Ryan is delighted that Krubally is returning to the Brentwood Centre –based club: “I think he was the best player in Division One, and he would have won the MVP award if he’d been with us all season. I think this sends out a message that we’re serious about winning things this year, we’ve fought off a lot of competition to keep Ous with us. It’s not just his on-court abilities, we now have the biggest community coaching programme in Division One, and he was an asset off the court as well.”
Krubally is pleased to be returning to the Big Cats: “Overall, I am thankful, grateful and blessed to have an opportunity to be apart of the Leopards for the 2011-2012season. I am excited about this season and the Leopards, and ready to work hard and have fun throughout the entire season.”
Krubally’s first game back at Brentwood will be the National Cup tie against neighbours Brentwood Fire on Sunday September 18. The Big Cats are due to announce more signings in the coming weeks.

30 August 2011
Leopards add two
LEOPARDS have announced two more signings as they prepare for the forthcoming England Basketball season. The Big Cats welcome big man Vilius Sumskis to the club, and coach Dejan Mihevc is hoping that the big Lithuanian will be a force to be reckoned with:
Vilius will be one of the most experienced players in our team and will for sure have a great impact on our younger guys. With 7’2” and exceptional filing for rebounding and scoring under the basket he will together with young Zak Wells be our force in the paint on both sides of the floor.”

The other is a familiar face to Leopards’ fans as they welcome back point guard Lukas Volskis.
The 20-year-old joined the Big Cats in 2007 and stayed with them for three years before spending last season in college in the USA. Mihevc is delighted to have the former Barking Abbey student back with the Big Cats: “Lukas is a young player who has played for Leopards and he did a good job then. Now he is even more experienced after spending one year at JUCO in USA and he is ready to work hard to improve and make the team and himself better. I am really happy to have such committed player in our team.”
The Leopards coach is also closing in on the signing of an American guard, with the big Cats having applied for his work permit this week. Leopards fans will have their first chance to see Sumskis in action, and the return of Volskis when they host Brentwood Fire at the Brentwood Centre in the National Cup Sunday September 24, tip-off 4pm.

12 September 2011
Mihevc ready for opening test

LEOPARDS coach Dejan Mihevc is looking forward to the start of the new season as the Big Cats prepare for two games at the weekend.
Mihevc’s team played three warm-up games in an exhausting day in Gillingham on Saturday, and now travel to PAWS London Capital in the National Trophy on Saturday before hosting neighbours Brentwood Fire in the National Cup at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday September 18.
“On Saturday we played our first games of this season what gave us a marker to where we currently are” said the new Leopards play-caller.
“There is still a lot of room to improve and even with missing some of the key players we showed that we can compete on this level. Young guys showed that they are on the right path and some of them are expected to have a big role in this season.”
“This weekend will be a tough test for us. Starting a season with probably the youngest team in the league and not having a full squad yet will be a big challenge. We play two important games in a row in which the Cup game on Sunday is one that we have to win, because there is no second chances. This will be also our first home game so I would use this opportunity to invite everybody to come to Brentwood to see and to support our team. With your support, playing and winning is much easier. ”

17 September 2011
Leopards accept BBL invite

LEOPARDS have accepted a late invitation to compete in the 2011/12 BBL Trophy competition.

The Big Cats were given the surprise invitation into the tournament following the closure of Southend-based Essex Pirates on Friday, and will play home and away games against Prestige Home MK Lions and Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders in October.

“We’re delighted to be invited” said General Manager Dave Ryan. “It’s a shame to see Pirates fold after just two seasons, but it shows how tough it is to run a club in the current economic climate. We’re pleased that the BBL recognise the work we’re doing with the club, and have invited us to be the only EBL club in the competition. Our aim remains to join the BBL when we feel we are in a strong position to do so.”

The Big Cats are now busy sorting out dates for the four games, with the only confirmed so far as being Sunday October 16 when they will travel to Milton Keynes.

It is the fourth time in the eight-year history of the new Leopards that they have been invited into the competition, and they are still looking for their first win after eight games against BBL teams. They played both Lions and Riders in the group stages in 2005 and 2006, and were knocked out by Cheshire Jets in 2010 when the competition was played on a straight knockout basis. The old Leopards had considerably more success when they played in the Trophy as members of the BBL – reaching the semi-final in 1998 and 2002, and having a 31-20 winning record in the competition.

Before they start to worry about the BBL Trophy, Leopards have the small matter of their EBL Trophy opener at PAWS London Capital on Saturday before neighbours Fire visit the Brentwood Centre on Sunday afternoon in the National Cup. Tip-off is 4pm on Sunday, and tickets are available on the day and from the Brentwood Centre in advance.

15 September 2011
Krubally excited about opening games

LEOPARDS captain Ousman Krubally is looking forward to the new season as the Big Cats prepare for this weekend’s games.

Krubally returns to Leopards for a second season, and will lead the team out at PAWS London Capital in the National Trophy on Saturday (6 pm) before Leopards host neighbours Brentwood Fire at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday (4 pm).

“This week’s games are exciting because those games officially tips off the season for us and the rest of the teams in the league” said Krubally.

“I am excited and ready to have fun giving everything I have to offer for the team in order to achieve and earn the result we, as a team, expect from ourselves.”

Leopards have been practising for the last four weeks, although visa delays meant that Krubally wasn’t able to join up with his team-mates until last Thursday, and he believes that the hard work will pay off for the Big Cats:

“My thoughts about the pre-season is that it has been a positive learning experience for our young team. It has given us the perspective we need to move forward in the direction we want for ourselves this season. Everyone has made the necessary improvements to have a terrific season. We look to continue improving, working hard, working smart and having patience everyday in every way we can.”

Krubally won the Leopards MVP award last season, and was second in both the Division One scoring and MVP awards, but did take the rebounding award with a massive 13.22 boards per game and also had the highest ranking per game which takes account of the four main statistical categories.

18 September 2011 – Leopards extinguish fire
London Leopards 80 Brentwood Fire 62
LEOPARDS set themselves up for a home National Cup second round tie with London Westside as neighbours Brentwood Fire were comfortably beaten 80-62 on Sunday afternoon. In front of a big crowd at the Brentwood Centre, Ousman Krubally hit six points as Leopards scored the first eight of the game and never looked back.
Krubally finished with 26 points in as many minutes, adding 18 rebounds for a huge double-double, while Sumskis added 16 points and eight boards. Ryan Alexis had 11 points, while Zac Wells had eight points and nine boards, and Volskis added nine assists to his six points. Former Leopards Chris Michaelides and Nick Wookey led the visitors with 19 and 13 points respectively.
With Sumskis also getting on the scoresheet in the first two minutes, it was clear that Leopards’ height was going to be an advantage, and they went on to out-rebound the visitors 52-28. Wookey got Fire off the mark, but the closest they came in the first period was four points, and with Alexis hitting a trey and Krubally capping six straight personal points with a dunk, Leopards went into the first break 28-18 ahead.
Mantas Adomantis kept the Big Cats’ lead at nine with five second period minutes gone before a Volskis trey launched a 15-2 run which saw Leopards go into the locker room with a comfortable 52-30 half-time lead.
Michaelides opened the second half scoring with a single free-throw, but two Krubally baskets – both off Volskis assists – helped Leopards open a 27 point lead, and a 10-3 start to the third period saw the home side lead 62-33 after five minutes of action.
Jheryl Cabey sent Leopards into the final break with a 66-41 lead, but it was the visitors who scored the first nine points of the fourth period forcing coach Dejan Mihevc to bring Krubally, Volskis and Sumskis back into the game.
The move worked as Sumskis hit a pair of shots split by Alexis’ three-pointer, and both Krubally and Josh Johnson also drained from the Land of Plenty as Leopards wrapped up the game with a 13-1 run to 79-51 with four minutes remaining.
Leopards: O Krubally (26), V Sumskis (16), R Alexis (11), Z Wells (8), L Volskis (6), J Johnson (6), J Cabey (4), M Admonantis (2), M Henry (1), R Mentor, J Steel

Leopards into quarter-finals

9 October 2011
Leopards survive to progress in Cup

IT went down to the last shot, but Leopards reached the last 16 of the National Cup with a thrilling win against London Westside on Sunday evening. The visiting side had a shot to win the game, but came up empty as Leopards marked their debut at Shenfield School with a win.
Leopards were forced to leave Vernon Teel out of their line-up for the game as the competition rules only allow one American against lower division opposition, and they were made to fight all the way by Westside.
Ousman Krubally finished with 27 points, John Lister adding 17 before fouling out and Josh Johnson 16 for a Leopards side who will now host fellow Division One side Westminster Warriors at the Brentwood Centre in the last 16 on Saturday October 29.
Playing on their third home court of the season, Dejan Mihevc’s side controlled the first half with putting enough distance between them and the Division Two team, and they led 36-28 going into the locker room at half-time.

Krubally opened the scoring with a dunk, and Leopards led by as many as nine in the first period as Lister hit a three off a Ryan Alexis assist.

Johnson’s basket with nine seconds left in the period sent Leopards into the first break with an 18-10 lead, and he made it a ten point lead with the opening score of the second quarter

Ola Ogidan cut that advantage to five after two minutes of the period, but a Krubally and-one made it a 14 point game before a Volskis free-throw sent the Big Cats into the locker room with a 36-28 half-time lead.

But the hosts managed only two points in the first five and half minutes of the second half, allowing Westside to grab their first lead of the game with 4:02 on the clock through a Dian Ivanov trey.

The visitors’ lead grew to as many as eight after a Jon Haymon hook shot, and despite a Krubally free-throw, the visitors went into the final break with a 57-50 advantage.

Johnson opened the fourth period scoring, and Krubally made it a three point game after a Lister steal before Johnson and Lister both scored to put Leopards up by one.

The 12-1 run was capped by a Lister threes off Volskis’ assist as the Big Cats looked to be back in charge with a 62-58 lead and 7:30 remaining.

But Lister fouled out with 6:36 on the clock and Westside refused to quit and they held Leopards scoreless for three minutes, pouring in 13 points to lead by nine with just over four minutes remaining.

The game swung the other way as four Krubally points and five from Josh Johnson saw the game level again, and a pair of Krubally free-throws made it a one point game in Leopards’ favour heading into the final 80 seconds.

Krubally hit another pair at the line as he was fouled for the 13th time in the game to put Leopards up by three heading into the last minute.

Lucian Calin brought his side within a point, but a poor offence saw Johnson miss a shot with 17 seconds remaining – giving Westside the ball and the chance to win the game with the final shot.

The visitors ran the clock down before Ben Clarke got the ball just three feet from the basket and a seemingly wide open shot. He somehow missed, leaving Krubally to grab his 23rd rebound of the game and seal the win in dramatic fashion.

Leopards: O Krubally (29), J Lister (17), J Johnson (16), L Volskis (8), M Henry (5), R Alexis (5), D Norton, J Lockwood, M Adomaitis, J Davis (DNP), S Bublys (DNP), L Steel (DNP).

Leopards 96 (23,48,78) Westminster Warriors 86 (18,36,59)

LEOPARDS continued their good form against EBL opposition as they reached the National Cup quarter-final with a 96-86 victory against Westminster Warriors on Saturday evening.

Vernon Teel led the way with a triple-double, finishing with 32 points 12 assists and ten rebounds as the Big Cats set up a trip to Bradford Dragons in the last eight.

John Lister added 18 points, while new signing David Buchberger – who joined the club from BBL champions Mersey Tigers on Thursday – added 17 and five points on his debut.

Ousman Krubally had yet another double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds for a Leopards side who lost centre Will Ohuaregbo after just two minutes of action with an ankle injury.

The visitors started strongly as Laken Popoola and John Johnstone gave them a 4-0 lead before Lukas Volskis opened the scoring for Leopards.

A Zac Wells dunk put the Big Cats ahead with 7:11 on the clock, and the hosts never trailed again as Buchberger’s trey sent them into the first break 23-18 ahead.

Popoola again opened the scoring at the start of the second half, and the home side were pegged back to 32-32 with four and a half minutes gone. But a pair of David Buchberger free-throws launched a 16-4 run capped by John Lockwood’s dunk to send the home side into the locker room with a 48-36 lead.

Teel extended that lead before Johnstone opened the second half scoring for Westminster, and the visitors got as close as six points when Y Bulambwe converted an and-one with 7:42 on the clock.

But a 19-2 run started by Tell and capped by Lister’s three-pointer off Teel’s assist helped Leopards into a comfortable 78-59 lead at the final break.

That lead was still at 19 points with three fourth period minutes gone, but for the second week in succession the Big Cats relaxed, and a 15-2 run from the visitors saw them make it a seven point game heading into the final three minutes.

Teel broke the run with back-to-back baskets and Buchberger made it a double digit lead again going into the last minute as Leopards wrapped up their fifth successive quarter-final place from the foul line.

Leopards: V Teel 32, J Lister 18, D Buchberger 17, O Krubally 15, Z Wells 6, L Volskis 2, D Norton 2, J Lockwood 2, J Johnson 2, W Ohuaregbo, R Alexis, M Adomantis

20 November 2011
Leopards through to semi-finals

Bradford Dragons 66 (19,30,47) Leopards 86 (26,42,69)

LEOPARDS bounced back after the previous day’s mauling in Bradford to hammer the home and progress to the National cup semi-final.

Vernon Teel finished with his second triple-double of the season with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists – adding four steals and two blocks for good measure, while Ousman Krubally led all scorers with a 29 point, 11 rebound double-double.

With a much better all-round scoring effort than the previous day, Lister added 17 – including five three-pointers – and Volskis ten, while youngster Dominic Norton had two big three-point efforts at key times.

The Big Cats led from tip to buzzer, building a 28 point lead at one stage as they continued their fine record in the Cup and set up a final four showdown at Tees Valley Mohawks. Coach Dejan Mihevc was understandably delighted with the win: “There’s no doubt that this was one of the hardest weekends for us. It is never easy to travel a long way and play the game on the same day, lose that game and then have a knock-out game in less then 24 hours against to the same team.

“It was hard, but the guys came up strong, took some pride and really played as a team. Our defensive attitude on Sunday was very good and watching them how they were sharing the ball in offence was a pleasure. Vernon and Ous did a tremendous job by leading the team after a hard loss to one of the best if not the best performance of the season until now.

Krubally scored six of the first eight points as Leopards raced into a six-point lead before Norton drained from downtown to put the big Cats 15-4 up after six minutes.

A 9-0 run saw Dragons pull within two points, but that proved to be the closest they came in the game, and both Volskis and Teel buried treys to send Leopards into the first break 26-19 ahead.

Krubally hit three of four foul shots to open the second period, and Leopards were up by nine wit four minutes in the stanza left when Bradford called a timeout but it made little different as Norton again scored from the Land of Plenty to send the Big Cats into the locker room with a 42-30 lead.

The second half scoring was again opened by Krubally who twice converted Teel assists before Lister hit a trey and Volskis score a jump shot to put the visitors up by 21. The 9-0 run was broken by Bobby Edmunds, but a long range Lister trey followed by an absolutely massive ally-oop which saw him rise about two Dragons’ players saw Leopards go into the final break 69-47 ahead.

After three-point plays from John Lister and Vernon Teel had given them a 28 point lead at the start of the fourth period, the visitors had to withstand an 11-0 Bradford run, but Krubally ended the run at the foul line and a trey from Volskis broke the Dragons’ resolve as the Big Cats wrapped up their place in the semi-final.

Leopards: O Krubally (29), V Teel (18), J Lister (17), L Volskis (10), D Norton (6), Z Wells (4), B Wilkinson (2), J Johnson, J Lockwood, S Bublys, J Cabey (DNP).

11 December 2011
Leopards through to final

Tees Valley Mohawks 84 (33,58,72) Leopards 96 (29,50,71)

VERNON Teel led Leopards to their second ever National Cup final as the Big Cats fought back from 13 points down to win 96-84 at Tees Valley Mohawks on Sunday.

Teel scored 21 of Leopards’ 25 points in the final quarter to finish with 49 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists to set up a meeting with Bristol Academy Flyers in January.

The Big Cats had to withstand an awesome three point shooting performance from the home side in the first half as they hit 72 percent of their shots from downtown to lead 58-50 going into the locker room at half-time.

It ended a run of five straight semi-final defeats for the Big Cats as they set up a final date at Ponds Forge in Sheffield on January 29.

Ousman Krubally added 16 points and eight rebounds despite again suffering with foul trouble , with David Buchberger finishing with 14 points, three assists and three steals.

Krubally opened the scoring off of Zak Wells’ assist, but a curious offensive foul call on Dominic Norton saw Mohawks take a lead they held until the fourth quarter. The home side seemed to be able to score from anywhere outside the arc as they hit Leopards with a barrage of treys, and the Big Cats trailed 31-18 with 90 seconds remaining in the period after a DeMarcus Berry trey.

But Well scored off a Teel assist, and with Buchberger hitting five points, Leopards went on an 11-2 run to cut the deficit to 33-29 at the first break. Krubally made it a four point game with the first score of the second period, but an 8-0 run saw Mohawks regain the initiative and they went into the locker room 58-50 ahead after David Glavan wrapped up the first half scoring with yet another three-pointer.

Well scored off Lister’s assist to open the second half, and although the Mohawks’ lead hovered around the six mark for mot of the period, Leopards tightened up their defence and stopped the seemingly endless threes from the hosts before Krubally and Teel both scored to cut the deficit to 72-71, at the final break.

Bradley Wilkinson hit a pair at the foul line to open the fourth period, and Leopards never trailed again. The Big Cats outscored the hosts 14-3 in the first five minutes of the period with Teel seemingly everywhere, and although Ike Attah made it a three point game with 4:14 on the clock, Teel replied with a three and a two to make it 88-80 with 3:20 remaining.

Ousman Krubally fouled out with three minutes remaining having picked up a strange offensive foul for his fourth and Jean-Louis Bomolo cut the visitors’ lead to 88-82 with three minutes remaining. Seven straight Teel points in the final minute ended the game as a contest and Leopards were left to make the long trip home knowing they are one win away from lifting the oldest piece of silverware in English basketball.

Leopards: V Teel (49), O Krubally (16), D Buchberger (14), B Wilkinson (8), Z Wells (6), L Volskis (3), J Lister, J Lockwood, D Norton, S Bublys

29 January 2012
Leopards win Cup

Leopards 64 (10,26,38) Bristol Academy Flyers 63 (24,38,50)

A stunning final five minutes saw Leopards come from behind to the win 2012 National Cup final with a 64-63 victory against Bristol Academy Flyers.

In front of a packed house at Ponds Forge in Sheffield, the Big Cats recovered from a poor first half to lift the oldest piece of silverware in English basketball.

Vernon Teel picked up the Most Valuable Player award as he finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Ousman Krubally came up with another big double-double, finishing with 15 points and as many boards, while five of David Buchberger’s 11 points came in the final 80 seconds as the Big Cats finished strongly.

Dejan Mihevc’s team couldn’t buy a basket in the first period as Enrique Garcia opened the scoring for the Flyers, and they hit the first eight points before Teel finally broke the duck with 200 seconds gone. Zak Wells doubled the Big Cats’ total to leave them trailing by nine, but they missed four of their six foul shots in what proved to be a prelude to a woeful display at the foul line as they scored just seven of their 21 attempts.

Douglas McLaughlin-Williams sent the West Country side into the first break with a 24-10 lead and another shot from downtown by the same player saw Bristol’s lead grow to 17 at the start of the second period.

Krubally and Lukas Volskis added to Leopards’ score, but they still trailed 30-14 before Buchberger made it a 30-16 game at the five minute mark. The closest Leopards came in the rest of the first half was when Volskis made it a ten point game heading into the final minute, but Davis Bowne grabbed his own rebound and scored to put Bristol 38-26 ahead going into the locker room.

Leopards started the second half brightly, and Wells – who did an excellent defensive job despite picking up four first half fouls – made it a six point game with 4:17 remaining in the third period, but Bristol replied with a 6-0 run to keep their 12 point lead alive going into the final period.

The fourth period finally saw Leopards spark into life. All 26 points were scored by Teel, Krubally and Buchberger, but there was some excellent defensive work from Dominic Norton and the Big Cats noticeably wore the Flyers down.

Teel started and finished a 10-2 run to open the fourth period and make it a four point game with three minutes gone. Garcia broke the tear, but Krubally responded immediately before Teel tied the score at 54with 4:34 remaining n the game.

Greg Streete restored Bristol’s lead and , but it wasn’t until the 3:30 mark that Leopards took their first lead of the game when Krubally scored off Volskis’ assist.McLaughlin-Williams – who led Flyers with 21 points – put the West Country side back up by one with three minutes remaining, and after Leopards had forced a shot clock violation, Buchberger scored off Teel’s assist with 80 seconds left on the clock to level the score at 59.

Greete missed a two pointer and Buchberger saw a trey rim out before the latter sunk what proved to be the biggest shot of the game as three sweetly dropped to put Leopards 62-59 ahead with 48 seconds remaining.

Flyers called a timeout, and Buchberger sent Streete to the line where he hit one of two foul shots to make it a three point game. Teel was then fouled, and scored the first before missing the second but Tyrone Treasure’s shot rimmed out and led to a jump ball.

The possession arrow was in Bristol’s favour, but McLaughlin-Williams saw his three-pointer miss, and Krubally grabbed the rebound before being sent to the line by Garcia. The Leopards captain hit the first foul shot but missed the second, and although Treasure hit a three that just beat the buzzer it was too late to prevent the Leopards’ celebrations starting in earnest.

Leopards: V Teel (23), O Krubally (15), D Buchberger (11), L Volskis (6), Z Wells (6), J Lister (3), D Norton, J Lockwood, B Wilkinson, S Bublys (DNP), J Steel (DNP), R Addison (DNP).
27 November 2011 Leopards down Flyers
Leopards 91 (26,51,69) Bristol Academy Flyers 87 (23,42,60)
LEOPARDS ended Division One champions Bristol Academy Flyers’ unbeaten start to the league season with a 91-87 victory in front of a large crowd at Brentwood on Sunday.
The Big Cats did it the hard way, though, letting a 20 point lead with five minutes remaining slip before Ousman Krubally sealed the win. Krubally finished with a 25 point, 11 rebound double-double, while Vernon Teel also had 25 points, adding 11 assists and seven boards. John Lister had his best game since joining the Big Cats as he hit his first nine shots on the way to a 21 point night, while 16-year-old Joe Lockwood had an impressive nine points and six rebounds in 16 minutes of action.
Krubally scored the first six points of the game for the Leopards, but Dejan Mihevc’s team started slowly, with Davis Bown’s three-pointer giving Bristol a 15-8 lead with just over three first period minutes remaining However, as Lister found his range he scored eight points and David Buchberger added to send Leopards into the first break with a 26-23 lead.
Teel opened the second period scoring, and with Lister and Buchberger both scoring from three-point land, Leopards went on a 12-4 run to lead 40-27 at the midway stage of the quarter.

Flyers fought back, with Tyrone Treasure making it a three point game with 2:34 on the clock, but Leopards finished the half strongly as Lockwood capped a 7-0 run off Teel’s assist to send the hosts into the locker room with a 51-42 lead.

Teel opened the second half scoring for the home side with a pair of free-throws, before Lister hit another trey. He finally missed a shot with five third period minutes gone, but Leopards stayed in front with their lead fluctuating between five and ten points, and a Teel drive to the basket sent them into the final break with a 69-60 lead.

Krubally scored off Teel’s assist to open the fourth period and a rare three from the American forward capped a 17-6 Leopards’ run to put them 86-66 ahead going into the final five minutes.
However, Flyers showed why they are top of the table as Greg Streete launched an 11-0 run to get them back into the game and as Leopards scored only two points in over four minutes, Roy Owen made it a two point game when he drained a trey with 38 seconds on the clock.
Teel missed a jump shot and Krubally saw an effort blocked before Teel was called for a foul with 13 seconds left to send Owen to the line.
The former Worcester Wolves’ guard hit the first free-throw but missed the second leaving Krubally to grab the rebound. He was sent to the foul line by Bown, and also hit the first before missing the second but grabbed the board and scored to seal the game for Leopards.
Leopards: O Krubally (25), V Teel (25), J Lister (21), J Lockwood (9), D Buchberger (6), Z Wells (3), D Norton (2), L Volskis, J Johnson, B Wilkinson, J Cabey (DNP), M Adomaitis (DNP).

15 January 2012
Leopards quieten Thunder

Leopards 84 (24,41,66) Worthing Thunder 74 (14,29,55)

LEOPARDS will travel to Bristol Academy Flyers in the semi-final of the National Trophy after a comfortable win against Worthing Thunder on Sunday afternoon.

In front of another big crowd at Brentwood, Dejan Mihevc’s team picked up their sixth win in seven games to reach the semi-final for the second straight year and the third time in four seasons.

Vernon Teel was again on form as he collected his fourth triple-double of the season with 24 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes. Fellow American Ousman Krubally added a 22 point, 15 rebound double-double, also in 32 minutes as the side occupying second spot in Division One were beaten.

Hank Rivers scored one of two free-throws to open the scoring for Thunder, but Teel grabbed the rebound off his own miss and scored with a minute gone – and the Big Cats led for the remaining 39 minutes.

Lukas Volskis hi his first of three three-pointers off Krubally’s assist to cap a 7-0 run in the first period, and the young guard finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three steals.

David Buchberger also scored from downtown to put the hosts 24-10 up with just over two minutes remaining in the period, and although they failed to trouble the scorers again in the first period, the home side still led 24-14 at the first break.

Buchberger opened the second period scoring ,and a three point play from Teel put Leopards up by 15 with three second period minutes remaining.

Krubally and Teel kept the score ticking over and the Big Cats went into the locker room with a 41-29 lead.

The lead peaked at 20 midway through the third period as John Lister hit a trey. But Leopards noticeably relaxed, and allowed Worthing to pull it back to 66-55 at the final break.

The malaise continued as the visitors opened the fourth period with a 10-4 run capped by Rivers to make it a five point game with seven minutes remaining.

That was as close as the visitors came as Lister – who finished with 11 points – hit another three-pointer and the lead never dipped into single figures again during the last five minutes as Leopards closed out the win.

Buchberger was the fifth Leopard to finish in double figures, with Marcus Tullis leading the visitors with 25 points, and Rivers grabbing a 21 point, 11 rebound double-double.

Coach Mihevc was pleased with Sunday’s result: “It was expected to be a hard game, but with right attitude and maximum effort we controlled the game from the beginning and all players deserve congratulations. I would also like to thank to all fans that come to watch and support us in a very decent number and I hope that they enjoyed the game.”

The date for semi-final will be announced this week.

Leopards: V Teel (24), O Krubally (22), L Volskis (11), J Lister (11), D Buchberger (10),Z Wells (4), D Norton (2), J Lockwood, B Wilkinson, R Addison, J Steele (DNP).

6 January 2012
Leopards hammer Capital

Leopards 85 (17,46,72) PAWS London Capital 50 (9,22,37)

LEOPARDS continued their march up the EBL Division One table with a third straight league victory, on Friday evening.

In front of another large crowd, the Big Cats led for 38 of the 40 minutes and never looked in trouble as coach Dejan Mihevc was able to run his bench for much of the second half.

Ousman Krubally led the way with a 22 point, 12 rebound double-double, in just 24 minutes, while Vernon Teel finished with 21 points, eight assists and five boards in 25 minutes.

John Lister had four three-pointers on his way to a 16 point night, while Lukas Volskis added eight points and four assists. Ibrahim Gariba was the only Capital player in double figures with a 21 point, 12 rebound double-double.

In Leopards’ biggest ever home Division One win, Teel opened the scoring with a pair at the foul line. Although Gariba levelled things, Teel gave the Big Cats a lead they would never lose with three minutes gone.

Bradley Wilkinson sent the home side into the first break with a 17-9 lead, and a Krubally dunk sparked an 11-0 run to open the second quarter.

Wilkinson capped the run with a free-throw to put the Big Cats 29-8 up 12 minutes into the game – effectively ending it as a contest. David Buchberger hit a three-pointer off Joe Lockwood’s assist as Leopards went into the locker room with a 46-22 half-time lead.
Teel opened the second scoring from the charity stripe, and the lead hit the 30 point mark with two third period minutes when Wilkinson converted Buchberger’s assist. Lister wrapped up the third period scoring from downtown as Leopards went into the final break 72-37 ahead and the lead peaked at 37 when Zak Wells grabbed Buchberger’s miss and converted from close range.
All of the Leopards’ players managed at least five minutes court time as the Big Cats moved up to ninth in the Division One table ahead of Sunday’s visit from Worthing Thunder in the National Trophy quarter-final.
Leopards: O Krubally (22), V Teel (21), J Lister (16), L Volskis (8), Z Wells (6), D Buchberger (5), B Wilkinson (5), J Cabey (2), D Norton, S Bublys, J Lockwood, M Adomaitis.

Leopards reach final

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).

Leopards at the treble

Leopards 95 (20,45.70) Derby Trailblazers 82 (16,40,55)

A stunning performance saw the Big Cats pick up the Division One play-off crown at the Amaechi Centre on Sunday.

The win completed the best season in the Big Cats’ eight-year EBL history as they added the season’s final piece of silverware to the National Cup and Division One regular season title.

Vernon Teel picked up his third MVP award of the season as he finished with another triple-double of 32 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists to lead them to victory. Fellow American Ousman Krubally also had another stand-out game with a 34 point, 17 rebound double-double, with David Buchberger adding 17 points and nine boards.

The Big Cats had to overcome a poor start and curious refereeing which saw both Dejan Mihevc and Buchberger collect technical fouls before collecting their 25th win in their final 26 games.

Trailblazers started strongly with a 7-0 run, with Teel picking up two early fouls, but Coach of the Year Dejan Mihevc stayed with his star guard though and Leopards started the comeback when Teel drained a trey with three minutes on the clock.

Zak Wells gave Leopards their first lead of the game when he converted a Teel assist with three minutes on the clock, and Simonas Bublys hit a bucket with 20 seconds remaining in the first period to put the Big Cats up 20-16 at the first break.

Rishi Kakad cut that lead when he sunk a trey to open the second quarter but a pair of Krubally scores split by a Buchberger trey gave the Big Cats an eight point lead with 8:20 on the clock.

A Lukas Volskis three midway through the second extended the Leopards’ lead to ten and ended the heckling for his loud basketball boots. But Martyn Gayle went on a streak of his own, scoring two threes in 15 seconds, including a transition score with a defender in his face.

He knocked down a third shortly after making it a five point game and forcing a Leopards timeout. The margin stayed the same at half-time as Buchberger drained a pair at the foul line and after 20 minutes Teel had 17 points, six assists and eight rebounds.

Teel opened the second half scoring and Leopards piled on the defensive pressure in the third period, and Krubally nearly brought basket down when stole the ball finishing in a massive left-handed jam.

Bublys put Leopards 17 up going into the final play of the third period and although Kakad hit a pair of free-throws, the Big Cats went into the fourth quarter with a 70-55 lead.

The Trailblazers chipped away at the lead in the early stages of the fourth period as Leopards tried to run down the club, but a Buchberger free-throw with six minutes remaining kept the Big Cats ahead by 11.

A Kakad floater and a pair of free throws made a dent in Leopards’ lead at 77-71 but Krubally answered with a pair of baskets to take control again, and Krubally and Teel both remained cool at the foul line down the stretch before the Big Cats’ celebrations could really start.

Leopards: O Krubally (34), V Teel (32), D Buchberger (17), S Bublys (4), L Volskis (3), Z Wells (3), B Wilkinson (2), D Norton, J Steel, J Lockwood, J Cabey, R Alexis

David overjoyed with success

DAVID Buchberger was delighted to finish the season by lifting the play-off crown at the Amarchi Centre on Sunday.

“What a great weekend.” said the shooting guard, who is now back in the States.

“Officially winning the play-off championship and locking up the treble for the season was an incredibly rewarding way to finish things.

“The games we played versus Leicester and Derby were also both very competitive, which made winning that much more satisfying. There are so many positive things that could be said about so many different players and people affiliated with the club, but I think at this point it is best to let the results of the season speak for themselves.

“After starting the season losing our first three league games, and then moving to 1-4 in the league over our first five games, what an accomplishment it is to finish with an overall record of 20-4 in the league standing atop the table, winning the National Cup, and winning the Playoff Championship.

“We went on a great run in 2012, and I think it is awesome how we were able to turn a season that started out a little shaky in the beginning, to one of the most successful and exciting in the history of the Leopards. I think everyone who was a part of things this year will remember the success for years to come; I think we made a lot of people really proud of the Leopards.

“And, as the Leopards continue to move forward in the future hopefully everyone will be able to look back someday and see that this year was only a shadow of the success that is to come.”

Lukas delighted with final win

LUKAS Volskis was delighted after the Big Cats collected the Division One play-off crown at the Amaechi Centre on Sunday.

“Where do I even begin talking about the weekend?” said the 21-year-old who first joined the Leopards in 2007.

“We finished the season by winning the EBL Playoffs which totalled three championships in one year, I think that’s nothing less than outstanding.

“I really enjoyed the weekend as it featured the best of the best in EBL basketball and it was great to be a part of such an event.

“I especially want to thank our fans and our management who took their time and effort to come down all the way to Manchester. I honestly feel like we have the best fans in the league, other teams may bring more but our fans always make it seem like we are playing at home.

“Also I want to thank my team and my coaches for an incredible year, it feels a bit surreal in terms of the success we’re had especially when I didn’t even know if I was going to play basketball at the start of the year.”

Volskis clearly enjoyed the most successful season in the Leopards’ eight year history: “This was by far my most enjoyable season especially being one of the Leopards’ longest players so to win everything just made it that extra bit special.

“So overall, I would just like to thank everyone for their efforts throughout the whole year and I hope everyone has a great relaxing summer!”


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