Essex Leopards look to build on cup victory against champions Loughborough
PUBLISHED: 09:00 18 October 2018
Essex Leopards will look to build on their 97-95 National Cup win at Westminster Warriors when they travel to Division One champions Loughborough Riders this weekend.
The Big Cats will hope its third time lucky as they aim for their first league victory after returning to the top flight following a season away, but they will face a tough test against a side who won the title for the first time last season on Saturday.
After seeing their opening game at Leicester Warriors abandoned following a backboard collapsing, Riders have split their opening pair of games in both the National Trophy and Division One, as well as progressing in the Cup with a 112-79 victory against Stoke Knights on Sunday.
A massive trey from Luke Mascall-Wright sealed the cup victory at Westminster as the Big Cats held off a dogged Warriors side to set up a last 16 tie against either Nottingham Hoods or London Westside at the University of Essex on Sunday, October, 28.
Leopards raced out of the blocks to lead 10-3, but a timeout from Warriors’ coach Jon Johnson revitalised his side, and despite Rory Winter’s three-point buzzer beater, Thomas Baker’s side trailed 29-20 at the first break.
The Big Cats were 35-24 down with four minutes of the second period to play but rallied to only trail by two at half-time and a stunning third period saw them take a 71-62 lead into the final period.
Warrior responded with a run and it was nip and tuck throughout the fourth period, but it was Mascall-Wright who struck the dagger blow to put Leopards into the next round.
Chuck Duru led the Big Cats for the first time, finishing with 21 points, with Lee Hodges adding 15 and Winter 14.
The previous day saw Leopards fought back from a 20 point half-time deficit, but ultimately go down 101-83 against Division Two champions Nottingham Hoods.
The Big Cats were 61-41 down at half-time but an 8-0 run capped by a Wes Flaherty basket cut the margin to 71-57 and a trey from Alejandrow Hernandez Batista made it 76-66 at the final break.
A pair of Mascall-Wright baskets made it an eight point game early in the fourth period, and Hodges’ free-throw took the deficit down to seven, but that was as good as it got as Ryan Lewis’ side regrouped to close out the victory.