A mixed weekend for Essex Leopards

PUBLISHED: 13:00 12 February 2018

Dougie Bennett in action against the Thames Valley Cavaliers (Pic: Paul Phillips)

Dougie Bennett in action against the Thames Valley Cavaliers (Pic: Paul Phillips)

Paul Phillips

A mixed weekend for Levett Essex Leopards saw their promotion hopes take a major blow.

A strong finish saw Thomas Baker’s side make it eight wins from nine as Team Birmingham Elite were beaten 73-63, on Saturday.

But, in contrast, the following day’s key game against Thames Valley Cavaliers saw the visitors take control in the final four minutes as they blew open a tight game with a 20-6 to win100-83.

Saturday’s visitors produced a fighting – though at times over-physical – performance that belied their lowly league but 20 points and seven rebounds from Korey Callum helped Thomas Baker’s side continue their promotion push.

Captain Dougie Bennett finished with 16 points and four assists despite playing only 27 minutes after a clattering challenge late in the first half that not only went unpunished but saw coach Thomas Baker receive a technical foul for complaining.

Jamie Hayes and Jerrell Laine added eight points apiece, while Antonio Deogratias marked his debut with 11 rebounds, six points and two assists for a Leopards’ team who were without Will Ashby, Caleb Tabernar and Jamie Rodwell.

The teams were tied at 19 going into the first break but the midlands side opened the second period with a 10-0 run.

A pair of Bennett three pointers pulled Leopards back into the game, and a pair of Jamie Hayes free-throws sent the hosts into the locker room with a 40-38 half-time lead.

A low scoring third period saw three-point plays from Callum, Bennett and Layne kept Leopards ahead, and Shaq Lewis converted to foul shots to send his side into the final break with a 55-50 lead.

Seven points from Callum saw Leopards’ lead stretched to ten points early in the fourth period, and although the visitors narrowed the gap to two points with three minutes remaining, Deogratias launched an 8-0 run to close out the win.

A big crowd at Brentwood the following day saw Leopards lead 27 of the 40 minutes but eventually come up short against a Cavaliers side.

Bennett scored seven of his team-high 16 points in the first four minutes as Leopards took a 9-4 lead, they even took a 48-47 lead into half-time, before losing 83-100.

The Big Cats now have a weekend off before travelling to Ipswich on February, 24.

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