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Essex Leopards face two tough tests this weekend

PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 February 2018

Essex Leopards Will Ashby in action against the Sussex Bears (Pic: Dave Ryan)

Essex Leopards Will Ashby in action against the Sussex Bears (Pic: Dave Ryan)

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Levett Essex Leopards face a key weekend as host two games at the Brentwood Centre.

Essex Leopards Dougie Bennett in action against the Sussex Bears (Pic: Dave Ryan) Essex Leopards Dougie Bennett in action against the Sussex Bears (Pic: Dave Ryan)

Strugglers Team Birmingham Elite are the visitors on Saturday evening (6.30pm) before the Big Cats face Thames Valley Cavaliers on Sunday (4pm) in a game that is key to their promotion hopes.

Elite will arrive at Brentwood sitting second from bottom in the 12 team NBL Division Two with four wins from ten games, and are one of six teams battling to avoid the two relegation spots.

The sides met in the midlands three weeks ago, and Leopards led from tip to buzzer, with their advantage peaking at 30 points, as they comfortably won 84-67.

While Thomas Baker’s side will be favourites to win Saturday’s game against Elite, Sunday’s opponents Cavaliers will prove a tougher test.

An already experienced roster which includes high-scoring American forward Martelle McLemore and ex-Leopard Phil Perre was added to shortly before last week’s signing deadline with the signing of former Essex Pirate Sam Toulawse.

After losing their opening two league games, the Uxbridge side have reeled off 12 straight wins to move up to second place and recently ended leaders Nottingham Hoods’ perfect start to the league campaign.

One of those 12 victories came against the Big Cats as they finished strongly to win 93-79, and they also knocked Leopards out of the National Cup with a dominant 93-65 at Harlow Leisurezone.

Leopards made it seven wins from their last eight games with an 88-76 victory against Sussex Bears at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday.

Captain Dougie Bennett decided to change his number to improve his luck, and the new number 41 led the way for his side with 26 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Baker’s team struggled in the early minutes, trailing 16-8 at the five minute mark, but Korey Callum’s three pointer launched a 7-0 run to drag them back into the game, and Bennett capped another 7-0 tear with a three pointer to make it 26-22.

Jamie Hayes opened the second period with a lay-up and a Caleb Taberner jump shot to make it 33-22.

Will Ashby and Bennett continued to put points up, while Taberner scored a trademark dunk, but the visitors kept fighting and it was eventually settled at 88-76.

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