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Essex Leopards look to seal play-off place at Bradford

PUBLISHED: 13:00 11 March 2019

Essex Leopards Asante Sandiford in action (Pic: Paul Phillips)

Essex Leopards Asante Sandiford in action (Pic: Paul Phillips)

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Essex Leopards will look to seal a place in the NBL play-offs when they travel to Bradford Dragons on Sunday.

The top eight sides in Division One compete for the final piece of silverware after the league season is completed.

The Big Cats go into the weekend in seventh place with 12 wins from 23 games, and they will complete their league campaign with visits to Brentwood from Thames Valley Cavaliers on Sunday March 24 and Solent Kestrels seven days later.

Thomas Baker’s side have already beaten the Dragons 91-79 at Brentwood behind 20 points apiece for Asante Sandiford and Luke Mascall-Wright.

It has been a rollercoaster of a season for Chris Mellor’s team having started well before being dragged into the relegation battle.

But two wins over last weekend appear to have ensured another season of Division One basketball, and they go into the weekend in tenth place with a 9-13 record.

Leopards produced arguably their worst performance of the season as they went down 75-57 at Newcastle on Sunday.

After Sandiford and Sam Newman had given the visitors a 4-2 lead, relegation threatened Newcastle went on a 7-0 run and never looked back.

Sandiford broke the run at the foul line but things didn’t improve as the wrapped up the first quarter with a trey to go into the break with a 21-11 lead.

Back-to-back scores from Hodges kept Leopards just about in the game, and Tom Child drained from downtown but the visitors conitnued to belie their place near the foot of the table and went into the locker room with a 40-27 advantage,

With Child hitting a second triple, Leopards managed to slowly chip away at the deficit, going into the final break 51-42 down, and although scores from Chuck Duru and Daniel Wagener made it a seven point game early in the fourth period that was as good as it got for the visitors as Newcastle closed out the victory.

Sandiford led the way with 13 points, with Newman and Lee Hodges each adding ten points.

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