Leopards denied first league win but progress into quarter-finals of National Cup

Hafeez Abdul in action for Essex & Herts Leopards against Reading. Picture: Dave Ryan

Hafeez Abdul in action for Essex & Herts Leopards against Reading. Picture: Dave Ryan - Credit: Archant

A good performance was not quite enough to give Essex & Herts Leopards their first league win of the season on Saturday as they went down 81-67 against Reading Rockets at Oaklands.

But the following day they progressed to the National Cup quarter-final with an 88-78 win at Sussex Bears.

Coach Thomas Baker was pleased with his side's showing in both games but was disappointed they were not able to secure a first league win.

"The game against Reading was one of our most disciplined performances of the season and on another day I feel we would have come away from there with a victory," he said.

"The guys did a great job for most of the game in executing our game plan, unfortunately some empty trips towards the end of the game meant Reading were able to extend the lead.

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"Sunday's game against Sussex Bears was the complete opposite.

"We started extremely poorly and found ourselves in a tied game at half time.

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"However, an excellent third period blew the game open for us and we were able to see it through."

The Big Cats matched the high-flying Rockets for most of the game but a 16-2 run during the final four minutes of the third period proved to be the difference.

Hafeez Abdul had another massive night as he finished with a 27-point, 14-rebound double-double, while Jerrelle Okoro added 16 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.

Sunday's Cup victory against Division Two side Bears saw the game won in the third period as Leopards overcame a 39-35 half-time deficit to blow the home side away with a 35-16 quarter.

Abdul scored 32 points, with Teni Mongo and Marius Kaetaniukasis adding nine each.

Leopards return to Division One action at Oaklands on Sunday when Liverpool are the visitors.

The club is currently mourning the loss of long-time supporter and volunteer Keith Tewkesbury, who died on Saturday.

He was one of the Leopards fans who helped save the club in 2004 and had previously been the Big Cats' matchday announcer.

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