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Levett Essex Leopards look for big finish at Brentwood

PUBLISHED: 09:00 09 March 2017

Mike Martin in action for Essex Leopards (pic Paul Phillips)

Mike Martin in action for Essex Leopards (pic Paul Phillips)

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Leicester visit for final home league fixture

Levett Essex Leopards will look to round off their home campaign with a win when they host Leicester Warriors at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday (4pm).

The Big Cats are desperately in need of a win after another disappointing weekend and with four games remaining know a victory is crucial if they are to avoid relegation for the first time in their history.

They are now second-from-bottom in Division One and one win behind fellow strugglers Worthing Thunder and Lancashire Spinners, whom they visit in their final two games of the season.

Leicester arrive at Brentwood on the back of a 90-87 victory against high-flying Solent Kestrels which secured them a place in Division One next season and are 10th with an 8-14 record.

Among those eight wins was an 85-71 victory against the Big Cats in November in a game that saw point guard Perry Lawson ejected.

Warriors’ National Cup hopes were ended at the last 16 stage by eventual winners Team Northumbria while in the National Trophy a win against Loughborough wasn’t enough as they were eliminated at the group stage by old rivals Derby Trailblazers.

Leopards’ relegation worries intensified as they went down 85-78 at Bradford Dragons on Saturday, before a humiliating 89-63 home loss against Hemel Storm at a packed Brentwood Centre a day later.

A strong second half at Bradford wasn’t enough for a Leopards’ side who trailed 49-34 at half-time.

A basket from Dougie Bennett capped an 8-0 run from the visitors and made it a three-point game with 22 seconds left, but the hosts wrapped up the win from the foul line.

Bennett led the way with 19 points, including three three-pointers, while AJ Roberts added 18, Jamie Hayes finished with 14 points and six rebounds and Justin Hitchman adding 12 points and eight boards.

After that encouraging second-half performance and with captain Mike Martin returning from injury, a large crowd at Brentwood might have expected a strong performance against Hemel.

But a terrible second period saw Leopards crash to a 10th straight league loss, after they had matched the visitors in the first period and trailed 20-18 at the break.

The offence completely dried up in the second quarter as Leopards were outscored 24-6 to effectively end the game as a contest.

Martin marked his return with a game-high 20 points and three rebounds while Bennett completed a good personal weekend with 14 points, but the Big Cats converted just five of 26 three-point attempts which proved their Achilles heel.

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