December 19 2013 Latest news:
Monday, October 14, 2013
Trophy holders facing elimination
Leopards’ defence of the National Trophy ended with a pair of defeats over the weekend, going down 80-69 at Worthing Thunder before losing an overtime thriller 72-70 against Tees Valley Mohawks at the Brentwood Centre.
With four straight losses in the competition they won last year, Leopards are now mathematically certain of elimination, and coach Robert Youngblood will use Sunday’s trip to Medway Park Crusaders as a chance to give himself and forward Siman Stewart some much-needed court time ahead of the National Cup against Medway or Hemel at the Brentwood Centre on October 27.
“We clearly need to change things around,” said Youngblood. “Some of the players have been told they need to improve and we need to sort things out quickly with the cup game at the end of the month.”
Leopards controlled the first half at Worthing, outscoring the hosts by five in each period to lead 37-27 going into the locker room after a buzzer beater from captain Carl Josey, and having out-rebounded Thunder by an impressive 31-21.
However the second half proved to be little short of a disaster for the Big Cats as the home side took the initiative with a 9-0 run and went into the final break leading 52-49 after outscoring Leopards 25-12.
A bucket from veteran Ronnie Baker gave Leopards the lead again to start the fourth at 53-52 but Thunder would not be denied and another 9-0 burst extended the lead to 72-64 and despite another three from Baker, the hosts held their nerve to register their first win in the Trophy.
Despite fouling out with over a minute to go, Howard Crawford led Leopards with 21 points but he was the only visiting player in double figures.
The following day saw Leopards control the game against Tees Valley for long periods without pulling away to allow a side they beat in last season’s final end their hopes of a repeat.
Crawford again led the way with 21 points and 12 boards, with Josey also getting a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Kris Clark added 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Crawford hit a pair of baskets to open the scoring, and Leopards never trailed in the first period before Courtney Van Beest sent them into the first break 14-12 ahead.
Jorge Ebanks, who led all scorers with 26 points, levelled things at the start of the second quarter, but Leopards reeled off six points to take control, and seven straight Clark points saw the lead grow to 29-17 before an Ebanks trey cut it to 35-28 at half-time.
Leopards started the second half strongly with baskets from Crawford and Josey, but the visitors refused to lie down and made it a nine-point game with under a minute of the third period remaining before a Tom Martin trey and a Josey basket sent the Big Cats into the fourth quarter 50-44 ahead.
A Baker three-pointer with 6:38 on the clock made it an eight-point game and Josey also got in on the act from long range as Leopards remained in charge.
But with two minutes left Mohawks made a decisive surge as five Ebanks points in a 7-0 run saw them grab their first lead of the game.
Stewart split a pair of free-throws for what proved to be the final score of regulation time, with Crawford and Martin missing shots before Clark made a mess of the final play to send the game into an extra period at 61-61.
A Josey dunk opened the overtime scoring, and it wasn’t until Nelson hit a trey with 1:57 on the clock that Mohawks took only their second lead of the game.
But it proved decisive as Samuels also scored from long-range to put them ahead by five.
Josey hit a pair at the line before Lawrence Brown split a pair, but Josey attempted game-winner with a second on the clock missed iron and Mohawks hung on for the win.