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Bennett stars as Leopards end losing streak

PUBLISHED: 09:30 27 March 2017

MVP Dougie Bennett produced a senior career-best for Essex Leopards at the weekend

MVP Dougie Bennett produced a senior career-best for Essex Leopards at the weekend

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Thunder silenced in double overtime

AJ Roberts attacks the basket for Essex Leopards against WorthingAJ Roberts attacks the basket for Essex Leopards against Worthing

Levett Essex Leopards ended their losing streak as they wrapped up their Division One campaign with a thrilling 113-110 double overtime victory at Worthing Thunder.

The victory snapped a run of 13 straight league losses and gave new coach Thomas Baker his first success since taking over three weeks ago.

Brentwood-based Dougie Bennett shrugged off illness to lead the way for the Big Cats with a senior career high of 33 points, adding six assists, to show why he won the club’s MVP award.

Thunder had no answer as they fouled him 10 times in the act of shooting, and Bennett finished with 15-from-20 at the foul line.

Bennett had to battle with AJ Roberts for the individual glory, though, with the American guard shaking off a difficult first half to chalk up a triple-double by the end of regulation time, finishing with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists.

Youngster Dominic Scott-Robinson had his best game in a Leopards’ vest with 15 points and six rebounds, with Jamie Hayes adding a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double and Justin Hitchman finishing with 12 points and five boards.

Only Thunder’s American Lyonell Gaines had any real answer for the visitors as he continued to lead the stats’ charts with a 43-point, 13-double-double.

There was little to choose between the teams throughout, and Shaq Lewis trimmed the Worthing lead to one off a Bennett assist, but Leopards still trailed by a point heading into the final 40 seconds,

Hitchman made it a one-point game in Leopards’ favour before Hayes was called for a harsh foul on Jack Sutherland, allowing the Thunder player to tie the game with one-from-two at the charity stripe.

Roberts turned over the ball, allowing Gaines the chance to win the game but his jump shot missed, sending the game into an extra period.

Sutherland opened the bonus period and Worthing quickly moved into a five-point lead before Hayes got the Big Cats off the mark, and although the visitors never led in the stanza, Lawson’s jump shot with 15 seconds on the clock ensured that - for a second Saturday running - the game went into a second overtime period and Tom Ward and Brendan Okoronkwo missed shots in the dying seconds.

Roberts and Gaines exchanged baskets to open the second extra period before Hitchman’s and-one off Roberts’ assist gave Leopards a 101-98 lead.

Gaines put his side ahead again with 2:04 left on the clock, but Hitchman hit another jumper with 87 seconds remaining and the Big Cats never trailed again.

Roberts completed his scoring for the night to make it a three-point game before Bennett wrapped things up with three-from-four foul shooting.

There will be one more chance to watch Leopards in action this season when they Oaklands Wolves in the Levett Challenge Cup at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday April 9, with tip-off at 4pm.

Leopards will also be running an extended pre-game camp to give youngsters the chance to practice with some of the Big Cats’ players.

Rather than the usual one-hour session, it will be from 2-3.30pm but will be priced at the normal £6.

There is also the chance to buy reduced priced tickets for adults at just £5 is booked through leopardsbasketball.co.uk before April 8.

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