Essex Leopards keen to continue push for top three finish

Essex Leopards Will Ashby in action against Ipswich (Pic: Paul Phillips)

Essex Leopards Will Ashby in action against Ipswich (Pic: Paul Phillips) - Credit: Archant

Levett Essex Leopards will continue their push for a top three finish when they host Derbyshire Arrows at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday.

The Arrows are one of Leopards oldest rivals having knocked them out of the play-offs in both of their first two seasons in the NBL.

But it will be the Big Cats who go into the game as favourites as the Arrows will arrive at the Brentwood Centre in eighth place with six wins from 16 games.

One of those ten league defeats for Pete Kelly’s side came when Leopards visited Killarmarsh Leisure Centre in January, 27 points from captain Dougie Bennett and a strong third period paved the way for an 81-69 Leopards victory.

A heavy loss at Team Birmingham Elite in their opening game ended any chance in the Patrons Cup, although they did beat Liverpool comfortably in their other group game, while in the National Cup they defeat Team Derby in overtime before going down 96-66 at perennial champions Manchester Magic.

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A terrible five minute spell at the end of the third cost Leopards as they went down 95-76 at Ipswich on Saturday.

The Big Cats were leading 51-50 when the home side called a timeout midway through the third period, and the move worked as they hit two three pointers in an 8-0 run and outscored them 21-7 to close out the quarter with a 71-58 lead.

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With brothers Kevin and David Moyo missing due to injury, coach Thomas Baker was left with junior Jose Morais as his only point guard, and the Big Cats finished the game with 21 turnovers.

Jamie Rodwell returned after injury and pulled down seven rebounds, but it was skipper Bennett who led the way for with 19 points, three assists and three boards.

Will Ashby added 15 points and Korey Callum 11 but the Big Cats struggled from behind the three point arc, converting only seven of their 31 attempts.

The Big Cats controlled the early stages, leading 17-11 at the five minute mark and going into the first break 24-23 ahead.

The hosts forced their way back into the game, and it took two free-throws from Callum to cut the deficit to 43-42.

It continued to be nip and tuck before Ipswich made their decisive run, and despite a 14-9 finish from Leopards, they fell short.

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