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Leopards coach remaining positive despite latest losses

PUBLISHED: 15:00 10 January 2019

Essex Leopards Lee Hodges in action against Hemel Storm (pic Nick Winter)

Essex Leopards Lee Hodges in action against Hemel Storm (pic Nick Winter)

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Essex Leopards coach Thomas Baker remained positive despite seeing his side recording contrasting defeats last weekend,

Essex Leopards Asante Sandiford in action against Hemel Storm (pic Nick Winter)Essex Leopards Asante Sandiford in action against Hemel Storm (pic Nick Winter)

The Big Cats were on the wrong end of a 101-60 battering at league leaders Solent Kestrels on Saturday before going out of the National Trophy with an agonising 95-94 loss at Hemel Storm the following day.

“It was a tough weekend for us a team,” Baker admitted.

“It was probably our worst performance of the season against Solent on Saturday, not just because of the result but in the manner in which it came, followed by one of the most competitive performances we’ve had the next day against Hemel.

“As we have done all season we responded well following from Saturday’s performance and we competed hard, had great energy and played well as a team. Unfortunately there were moments of lapses which Hemel punished, which has brought our Trophy run to an end.

“We will have to move on quickly as games are coming thick and fast for us. We have double-headers for the next two weekends and it is crucial we start to pick up wins as soon as possible to improve our league record.

“As heart-breaking as it is to lose by a point and be in a position to win the game with little time remaining on the clock, I am proud of our performance, with a few minor adjustments I am confident the results will come.”

Sunday’s loss at Hemel came in agonising fashion as American forward Asante Sandiford failed to connect with a pair of free-throws with just 0.6 seconds remaining.

Sandiford had led the Big Cats scoring with a stunning 37 points and 12 rebounds.

Leopards led 29-25 at the first break and increased that margin to 57-51 at the half-time interval, but a poor start to the second half saw Hemel take control and they went into the final break with a slender 77-76 advantage.

The teams were tied at 93-93 with a minute left before Lee Hodges converted a lay-up, only for Levi Noel’s three-point shot to put Hemel ahead.

Both sides missed before Sandiford was left with the ball in his hands with seven seconds left.

He drove to the basket and was fouled Leome Francis, but missed both foul shots to crash out.

Leopards travel to Barking Abbey on Saturday and host Loughborough Riders on Sunday.

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