Basketball: Baker proud of Leopards progress
PUBLISHED: 11:00 22 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:40 22 November 2018
Leopards head coach Thomas Baker declared himself proud of his team after they progressed to the National Cup semi-finals with an 87-76 win over Manchester Magic at the Brentwood Centre.
Luke Mascall-Wright came off the bench to lead the Big Cats with 18 points and six rebounds, as captain Sam Newman added 14 points and four assists.
Lee Hodges finished with a 10-point, 15-rebound double-double, while Rory Winter and new American signing KJ Lee – who was only cleared to play the previous afternoon – added 11 apiece in a balanced scoring effort.
Baker said: “It was a great result for the team. I was proud of them for coming together when needed to put us in the semi final. It is exciting to see where this season can take us. This win has given us the belief that we can turn our season around.
“It was a fantastic team performance with a number of the guys stepping up to take us to the next stage. Luke [Mascall-Wright] put in a great performance on the offensive end, Findlay [Wood] played solid defence throughout and Lee was monstrous on the boards as well.
“Shout-out to Findlay, Tom [Child] and Rory [Winter] for knocking down some big 3s in the fourth to take us through to the end of the game.”
Baker was also delighted to be playing in front of a big crowd at the Brentwood Centre, adding: “Let me just say the crowd was excellent. It was great to see so many fans come and show their support for the Leopards.
“It meant a great deal to the players and to everyone involved in this club, they were truly amazing.”
After an even first period which Leopards shaded 18-17, there was still only a point in at the midway stage of the second quarter before Lee launched what proved to be the key run. Newman hit back-to-back threes and Andre Lavinier also drained from downtown as the hosts scored 17 unanswered points to lead 42-28 going into the half-time break.
Leopards kept the visitors at arm’s length during the rest of the game, with Magic never getting closer than seven points, and a dagger three from Wood sealed it with 90 seconds to go.
The Big Cats face a home double header at the University of Essex as Leicester Warriors visit for a NBL Division One game on Saturday (6pm) before Reading Rockets arrive for a must-win National Trophy tie on Sunday (4.30pm).