Double delight for Essex Leopards
PUBLISHED: 16:15 05 March 2015
Big Cats go clear at top of National Div One
Two wins in two days helped the Essex Leopards move one win clear at the top of National Division One.
The Leopards first beat Hemel Storm 73-66 before making the trip to Bradford Dragons less than 24 hours later and returning from the journey north with a 75-63 victory.
In their first match of a busy weekend, the Big Cats made hard work of it as they came back from a 15-point
deficit to triumph.
Dave Ajumobi and Will Ashby led the charge for Robert Youngblood’s men with 27 points apiece.
Ajumobi added 12 rebounds to his tally, while Ashby scored five of his nine three-point attempts.
The hosts had started badly and found themselves 30-15 behind midway through the second quarter.
It was then that the Essex side began to come to life, as Ajumobi capped a 7-0 scoring run for the hosts with a buzzer-beater to make it 34-27 at the break.
With their attack beginning to click, the Big Cats also tightened up their defence in the second half.
The hosts regained the lead for the first time since the early minutes of the match through a pair of Ashby free-throws to lead 46-44 heading into the final quarter.
But the sides were level heading into the last six minutes of the game before scores from Ajumobi and Ashby looked the seal the win.
A three-pointer from Storm’s Bode Adeluola set up a tense finish, but any Leopards nerves were calmed when Ladi Brown completed a breakway run with a dunk in the dying seconds.
There were no signs of tiredness when the leaders travelled up the A1 to Bradford.
The visitors led for most of the game, but only held a slender 18-16 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Essex began to pull away from their Yorkshire hosts as they led 44-31 at half-time.
Their 13-point advantage was maintained through the third quarter as they led 48-35 going into the final 15 minutes of the match.
In the end, it was a comfortable win with Ajumobi again playing a leading role as he contributed 24 points, while Ashby added a further 13.
Next up for the Leopards is a clash with Westminster Warriors, who have the joint-worst record in the league.
When the sides last met, however, Ajumobi’s heroics were required as he netted a last-minute winner to give Essex a 61-60 victory.