Leopards continue hunt
PUBLISHED: 12:20 11 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:20 11 February 2016
Big Cats bidding for home-court advantage
The hunt for home court advantage in the play-offs continues for Levett Essex Leopards with two key games this weekend.
The Big Cats make the short trip to Hemel Storm on Saturday, before Bradford Dragons are the visitors to Harlow Leisurezone on Sunday (3.30pm).
Bradford go into the weekend in 11th spot in Division One with a 4-12 record.
It’s something of a surprise to see Chris Mellor’s side near the bottom of the table – although they look safe from genuine relegation fears – but they were without the influential Rihard Sulcs for the first half of the season and have also recently re-signed Ricky Fetske.
Those two players should help them move up the table in the final couple of months of the season, but Leopards’ trip to Bradford in mid-November saw a nice balance of scoring as they stepped up in the second half to win 80-61.
Before then the Big Cats face a tough trip to a Hemel side who are up to third in the table having won 11 of their 16 games, including a tight 87-85 victory against Leopards at Harlow.
After winning their first 22 games against the Hemel franchise in its various guises, Leopards were brought down to earth when they travelled to Hertfordshire in September for a Trophy tie and were hammered 98-67.
As well as looking to move up the table, Steve Ogunjimi’s side will have revenge on their mind on Saturday.
Leopards made it four straight home league wins on Sunday afternoon as Worthing Thunder were beaten 75-62 at Harlow.
Ladi Brown led the Big Cats for the third time in six games with 20 points and six rebounds and Scotland international Dougie Bennett had 15 points in under 19 minutes, while Will Ashby added 13 points and five boards.
A tight first period saw Brian Nguru sink a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give Leopards an 18-17 lead, but it was a 12-3 run in the final three minutes of the second period which gave the home side a lead they would never lose.
Captain Albert Margai scored six of points, with Brown converting a three-point play as the home side took a 40-32 lead into half-time.
American James Cambronne – who led his team with a 23-point, 13-rebound double-double – cut the lead with the first four points of the second half before Ashby answered.
And threes from Bennett and Ashby looked to have sewn the game up as the Big Cats took a double-digit lead, before a 7-0 Worthing run cut the advantage to 54-50 going into the final break.
Jamie Hayes and Brown doubled that lead with the opening scores of the fourth period and, after missing a pair of free-throws, Bennett made it a 10-point game heading into the final three minutes.
Cambronne answered, but Thunder never got closer than eight points as Leopards wrapped up their ninth league win of the campaign.
The only downside for Ogunjimi would have been his side’s struggles from the free-throw line as they converted only six of their 16 foul shots.
But they did an excellent defensive job on Thunder’s Tom Ward who missed all 16 of his field-goal attempts and finished with just two points in more than 37 minutes of action.