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Leopards head coach Baker delighted with recent form ahead of Bradford clash

PUBLISHED: 16:00 15 January 2019

Essex Leopards Lee Hodges in action against Loughborough Riders (Pic: Dave Ryan)

Essex Leopards Lee Hodges in action against Loughborough Riders (Pic: Dave Ryan)

Archant

As his side prepare to host Bradford at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday, Leopards' coach Thomas Baker couldn't hide his delight as his side moved up to ninth in the Division One table with a pair of victories over the weekend.

A tip-in from captain Sam Newman sealed a 65-63 win at Barking Abbey on Saturday before reigning league champions Loughborough Riders were hammered 108-76 with an incredible 20 three-pointers sunk by the Big Cats.

“What a fantastic weekend for us,” Baker said.

“After last weekend’s heartbreak it was great to have an end game situation go in our favour.

“To pull off a win against Barking was a great way to start. Defensively we made adjustments which helped us in both games but offensively against Loughborough we were unbelievable at times.

“The freedom we play at allows players to make decisions that they are confident with and the way we shot the ball was exceptional.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where a team has made 20 three-point shots. It was incredible. This was exactly the performance we needed to keep us going on our journey.

“It is going to be a interesting few weeks for us, we are locked in to chase down the teams above in the play-off positions. We will be taking it one game at a time.”

Leopards led by as many as 16 points at Barking before foul trouble saw them let the hosts back into the game, and Abbey took a one point lead with three minutes remaining to set up the grandstand finish.

Newman and Lee Hodges led a balance attack with 14 points apiece, Newman adding six assists and Hodges 13 rebounds.

Asante Saniford finished with a 13 point, 12 rebound double-double despite being double-teamed throughout the game, while Mascall-Wright added nine points.

In contrast, Leopards led for the whole game against Riders with Newman doing much of the early damage as he finished with six-from-10 three-point shooting on the way to a 22 point, seven rebound, six assist night.

The Big Cats led 46-26 with three first half minutes remaining, only to see Riders halve that lead with a 12-2 run going into the locker room.

But as Mascall-Wright stepped up the visitors had no answer, and after the Big Cats had taken a 72-58 lead into the final break they killed off the game with 23 unanswered points with Mascall-Wright draining four triples.

Bradford Dragons will arrive at Brentwood one place ahead of the Big Cats in eighth place with a 6-7 record at the halfway stage of the season.

They were the first club to defeat leaders Solent in a league game but since Christmas have suffered heavy losses against Barking Abbey and Nottingham Hoods.

Tip off at the Brentwood Centre in 4pm with a big crowd expected.

The Big Cats are also in action on Saturday with a trip to Nottingham Hoods who sit in sixth position with seven wins from 13 games.

The teams have already met twice at Essex Sports Arena with Hood taking the league points before Leopards gained revenge in the National Cup fourth round.

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