Big weekend coming up for the Leopards with revenge in mind

PUBLISHED: 15:00 23 October 2015

Will Ashby attacks the basket for Essex Leopards (pic: Paul Phillips)

Will Ashby attacks the basket for Essex Leopards (pic: Paul Phillips)


After defeat to Worthing Thunder on Saturday the Big Cats will eye up a different result this time

BAD Thunder v Essex Leopards, 13 Oct 2015; Evan WalsheBAD Thunder v Essex Leopards, 13 Oct 2015; Evan Walshe

The Levett Essex Leopards are preparing for their biggest weekend of the season as they face games in two competitions.

On Saturday, the Big Cats travel to Worthing Thunder for the first match of their NBL Division One title defence, before the Westminster Warriors visit Brentwood Centre for a National Cup third round tie on Sunday.

The Warriors game is a repeat of the National Trophy tie at Harlow that saw the visitors edge a tight game 68-64.

With that in mind, Leopards can expect another tough test against a strong side.

Under new player-coach Julius Joseph, Warriors have won seven of their first eight games.

The winner will have a home quarter-final against Leicester Warriors or Derby Trailblazers.

Big Cats reached the last 16 after a 99-57 win at Barking & Dagenham Thunder last Tuesday.

Ladi Brown led the way with 26 points and Steve Ogunjimi’s team never trailed against their Division Three hosts.

Will Ashby added 13 points, Justin Hitchman contributed 11 and Evan Walshe scored 10 on a night when all Leopards members scored.

Saturday will see Big Cats make their second trip in eight days to the south coast to face a side who have progressed in the Trophy and Cup with a combined 5-2 record.

The teams met last weekend and a depleted Leopards side went down 92-85 to end their slim hopes of qualifying for the Trophy quarter-finals.

With coach Ogunjimi at a wedding, Brian Nguru injured and both Ashby and Brown unavailable, assistant coach Roger Malpass took just eight players to Worthing.

He said: “We played really well, with the guys there showing great attitude, and lots of endeavour. It’s hard to win with a 29-19 foul count and some key decisions going against you at crucial times.”

Leopards opened the scoring through Hitchman and led for most of the first period, before going into the second tied at 21.

Big Cats went back ahead at the beginning of the second and a score from Tosin Oyelese put the visitors up by 12, before Thunder finished the half strongly to cut Leopards lead to 43-36 going into the break.

Courtney Van Beest made it a nine point game with the opening score of the third and a Dougie Bennett trey kept them ahead until late on when Hitchman was called for a soft offensive foul.

A subsequent technical foul on the bench saw the momentum swing in favour of the hosts.

Leopards captain Albert Margai sent his side into the final break with a 66-62 advantage but the visitors’ lack of depth showed as they were outscored 30-19 to give Thunder the win.

Hitchman ended with 15 points and six rebounds. Van Beest, Bennett and Evan Walshe all added 14.

Oyelese scored 14 and Margai nine to complete a balanced scoring effort for Leopards.

The Big Cats will now hope to get revenge this weekend.

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