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Basketball: Leopards begin with a win

PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 September 2017

Ruben Saiz Colon in action for Leopards against Team USA Select

Ruben Saiz Colon in action for Leopards against Team USA Select

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Levett Essex Leopards opened the new season with a win over Team USA Whites at Oaklands College.

Kevin Moyo in action for Essex Leopards against Team USA SelectKevin Moyo in action for Essex Leopards against Team USA Select

Spanish guard Ruben Saiz Colon led the way on his debut with 21 points, scoring the first basket of the night as Thomas Baker’s side led from tip to buzzer.

Jamie Hayes added 14 points, while captain Kevin Moyo had eight points and eight assists.

Leopards rushed into an 8-0 lead and three-point shots from David Moyo and Steve Hemmings kept them well in control, as Hayes scored nine of his points in the first period for a 26-11 lead.

The Team USA Blues got their revenge at Brentwood on Sunday with a 71-62 victory.

AJ Roberts in action for Leopards against Team USA SelectAJ Roberts in action for Leopards against Team USA Select

The Big Cats led for most of the first three periods, but were outscored 27-18 in the final stanza as the tourists claimed victory.

AJ Roberts came off the bench to lead Leopards with 18 points, while Colon had 12 points in 20 minutes after getting into foul trouble.

Kevin Moyo had seven points, five assists and four rebounds, but Hayes sank only one from nine and finished with nine rebounds, three assists and a steal.

Coach Baker was pleased with the weekend’s work, though, and said: “We did the things we’re good at well, playing at a fast tempo and forcing turnovers.

“But it also confirmed what we need to work on, rebounding and not letting a big lead slip. If we’re up by 15 we need to push on and build it to 20 or 25, not relax.”

Leopards complete their pre-season campaign with a home match against Reading Rockets at the Brentwood Centre on Saturday (7pm). Admission is £5 adults, £3 children and £12 family.

The Big Cats have faced the Rockets more than any other club in their 14-year history, most famously in the 2006 National Cup final when they won in front of a crowd of 6,000 at Birmingham’s NIA.

Reading did the double over Leopards last season on the way to finishing third in Division One and will be a good test for Baker’s men ahead of their Patrons Cup clash with Nottingham Hoods on September 17 (4pm).

See leopardsbasketball.co.uk for news on their pre-game coaching sessions.

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