Super Leopards slay Dragons
PUBLISHED: 17:00 07 January 2014
Big Cats bounce back from defeat
Leopards bounced back from their loss in Leeds to clinch a stunning 82-80 victory at Bradford Dragons.
England’s most capped player, Ronnie Baker, was the hero as he drained a three with eight seconds left to put Leopards 81-80 ahead.
Some great defence forced the Dragons into a turnover, and Baker was sent to the foul line with 1.2 seconds remaining where he hit the first shot before deliberately missing the second to run the clock down.
Earlier in the game the Big Cats had trailed by as many as 14 before three Kris Clark three-pointers in the third period dragged them back into the game.
And they still trailed by five with just over two minutes remaining before Robert Youngblood and Clark set up the thrilling finish with some good foul shooting.
It was the third time Dragons had lost in the league this season, with Leopards having inflicted two of those defeats on them to take the head-to-head decider.
The Big Cats started well, leading 12-9 after five minutes of action, but were pegged back to 18-16 going into the first break before a 7-0 run at the start of the second half put the home side in charge.
The home side led 31-24 when coach Youngblood called a time-out with 4:24 remaining in the second period, but worse was to follow when he and Baker collided, and Youngblood was forced to limp out of the action.
Despite the loss of the veteran forward Leopards stayed in touch, trailing 41-34 at half-time, but the game appeared to have slipped away from them as Bradford extended that lead to 14 midway through the third period on the back of 10 unanswered points.
The introduction of Baker at the point guard spot, moving Clark to shooting guard, paid off as the American drained three baskets from long range and Baker beat the buzzer with a floater to cut the deficit to 64-59 at the final break.
The Big Cats could make few inroads into the deficit in the early stages of the fourth period, Youngblood calling a time-out with 6:29 remaining and his side down by six.
And although Clark made it a three-point game at the five-minute mark, Leopards were still five down when Youngblood limped back into the game with three minutes to play.
Youngblood drained a pair at the foul line before Clark also hit two free-throws to make it a one-point game heading into the final minute.
But Leopards trailed by two heading into the final 23 seconds before Baker’s heroics set up the win.
The Big Cats shared the points out nicely with Baker, Ish Fontaine and Courtney Van Beest all finishing with eight, Youngblood adding seven and Iaon Nickson having his best game as a Leopard with five points and as many assists.
Dragons were led by 14 points from Dan Foley, with Vance Silcott and Denis Scott adding 13 apiece.