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Leopards get off to a losing start on new home court as Adebayo inspires Crusaders

PUBLISHED: 11:00 09 October 2018

Lee Hodges scores for Leopards (pic Paul Phillips)

Lee Hodges scores for Leopards (pic Paul Phillips)

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A strong second half could not prevent Leopards starting life at the University of Essex with an 84-77 loss to Barking Abbey Crusaders.

Chuck Duru attacks for Leopards (pic Paul Phillips)Chuck Duru attacks for Leopards (pic Paul Phillips)

The Big Cats erased a 20-point deficit with a strong end to the third period and good start to the fourth, but came up short down the stretch.

In front of a big crowd, captain Sam Newman led the hosts with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists, as Chuck Duru added 15 points on his competitive debut.

Luke Mascall-Wright continued his good early-season form with 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists, with Lee Hodges adding 11 rebounds to his 12 points.

The Big Cats won the rebound battle 46-38 but their up-tempo game was slowed down and they were outshot from all distances by the visitors, for whom Ade Adebayo hit 35 points in as many minutes including four treys.

Luke Mascall-Wright in action for Leopards (pic Paul Phillips)Luke Mascall-Wright in action for Leopards (pic Paul Phillips)

Duru was the first Leopard to score at their new venue when he split a pair of free-throws, but the Big Cats struggled to get points on the board in the opening minutes and despite treys from Newman, Andre Lavinier and Duru, they were 19-16 down at the first break.

The second period proved key as Barking went on an 8-0 run and a pair of Newman free-throws could only reduce the arrears to 45-31 at half-time.

A trey from Feeney put Barking 20 up at the midway stage of the third period but Thomas Baker’s team finally clicked into gear as back-to-back treys from Tom Child in 15-5 run to end the period and cut the deficit to 61-51.

Newman scored from long range to open the fourth period and four Mascall-Wright points in an 8-0 run saw the husts pull to within one point at 63-62 with seven minutes left.

Adebayo and Duru exchanged treys but the young English guard did all of the damage down the stretch as he scored 21 straight points for Abbey to seal their win.

The Big Cats return to action at the University of Essex on Saturday (6pm) as they host Nottingham Hoods after the Essex Rebels women face Nottingham Wildcats at 3.30pm.

Leopards also face a tough game on Sunday as they travel to Westminster Warriors in the National Cup.

Baker’s team won two tight league games against them last season to seal fourth place in Division Two, but were knocked out of the play-offs by a Warriors team containing ex-Cats Tosin Oyelese and Justin Hitchman.

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