Basketball: Essex & Herts Leopards lose out to Team USA Select

Chuck Duru in action for Leopards (pic Paul Phillips)

Chuck Duru in action for Leopards (pic Paul Phillips) - Credit: Archant

A strong second half comeback proved not to be enough as Essex & Herts Leopards went down 89-76 against Team USA Select at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday.

A big crowd saw Thomas Baker's new look team start slowly before working their way back into the game before eventually running out of time.

Ray Akporu led the Big Cats with 17 points and nine rebounds while Leon Henry finished with 18 points and added five boards in 16 minutes of action.

Hafeez Abdul added 16 points and seven rebounds, with captain Chuck Duru chipping in with ten points and five boards.

With Leopards fielding ten debutants and with only Duru returning from last season, it was not a surprise that they struggled against an impressive American side as they fell behind 15-7 after five minutes.

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They recovered slightly to cut the gap to 25-18 at the first break but the second period proved to be a tough learning curve as they were outscored 24-11 to trail 49-29 going into the locker room at half-time.

The hosts chipped a point off the deficit by the midway stage of the third period but still trailed by 19 going into the final break.

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The fourth period was all Leopards as they steadily reduced the lead, outscoring the visitors 17-12 in the first five minutes before eventually winning the period 31-25.

Coach Baker was pleased with his side's display and said: "Overall it was a good performance from us.

"Even though at times in the first half we were a little bit tentative, we grew as the game went on.

"The energy from the crowd was great and it felt good to be back at the Brentwood Centre again.

"As the season nears we are going to focus on getting better one step at a time and I am confident we have what it takes to be competitive this season."

Skipper Duru was also positive after the game, adding: "I thought we played a lot better in the second half, cutting the deficit after a poor first half.

"We played with more energy and intensity and also showed a lot of promise."

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