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Leopards into Final Fours again

13:00 17 April 2014

Andre Lockhart attacks the basket for Leopards (pic: Paul Phillips)

Andre Lockhart attacks the basket for Leopards (pic: Paul Phillips)

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Big Cats beat Bristol in tense clash

Leopards reached their fourth straight Final Fours with a 65-57 victory against Bristol Academy Flyers at a tense Brentwood Centre.

Robert Youngblood’s team will now travel to Manchester on Saturday April 26 to face Leeds Carnegie in the semi-final, with the final taking place the following day.

Howard Crawford again led the Big Cats with 23 points and eight rebounds, but it was guard Andre Lockhart who took the game by the scruff of the neck down the stretch on the way to a 19 point game.

Kris Clark finished with 11 points and five rebounds, while Shaun Durant had 11 boards to go with his six points.

Ultimately it was an 11-0 run in the fourth period sparked by Lockhart which sealed the game as the visitors were held scoreless for almost six minutes,

The home side started slowly with Roy Owen and Greg Streete giving Bristol a 3-0 lead, but a Clark trey started a 9-2 run with Crawford hitting back-to-back baskets.

Four straight Streete free-throws levelled the score at 9-9, but Crawford took his tally to six, and a Courtney Van Beest basket sent Leopards into the first break with a 17-12 lead.

That advantage quickly evaporated as Duane Lautier-Ogunleye buried a three in a 6-0 start to the second period from the visitors, and although baskets from Clark and Durant broke the run, it was only poor foul shooting from the Flyers that kept Leopards in touch.

A Crawford and-one cut the deficit to a single point, but the Flyers went into half-time 33-30 ahead as Jordan Rankine beat the buzzer.

Streete – who along with Lautier-Ogunleye led his side with 15 points – made it a five-point game with the opening shot of the second half, but straight Lockhart points put Leopards 39-38 ahead with three third period minutes left.

A pair of Owen baskets put Bristol ahead again, and although Lockhart’s and-one gave Leopards a one-point lead, treys from Streete and Tomas Okros sent Bristol into the final break 50-47 up.

Lautier-Ogunleye opened the fourth period scoring before Lockhart and Crawford pulled Leopards within a point, and Doug McLaughlin-Williams scored their final field goal of the game as he sunk a three with 7:24 on the clock to put his side 55-51 ahead.

Lockhart halved the deficit but after a 90-second lull in scoring Crawford sunk a single free-throw to make it a one-point game.

A Crawford dunk off Clark’s assist gave Leopards’ the lead with 4:06 to go before a massive block from Durant on Streete brought the crowd to its feet.

Clark made it a three-point game with a pair of foul shots and Crawford dunked off his assist before the game was effectively sealed with 99 seconds left as Crawford blocked McLaughlin-Williams’ three-pointer, grabbed the rebound and fed the ball for Clark to dunk and put Leopards 60-55 ahead.

Clark made it a seven-point game before Lautier-Ogunleye ended Bristol’s drought from the foul line, but Crawford slammed another massive dunk down before Lockhart wrapped up the win at the foul line.

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