Essex Leopards wrap up league campaign against Solent Kestrels
PUBLISHED: 14:00 27 March 2019
Essex Leopards wrap up their league season at the Brentwood Centre as they host champions-elect Solent Kestrals on Sunday.
It’s a key game for both side with the Hampshire side needing a win to clinch the league title and the Big Cats still needing a victory to seal a place in the post-season play-offs.
Leopards will head into the weekend in seventh place and while they could still get into the post-season if they lose against Solent and other results go their way, but a win could see them move up to sixth place in the final table.
Kestrels will arrive at the Brentwood Centre with a 21-4 record and could be crowned champions on Saturday evening if Worthing lose to Thames Valley. If not they will to beat Leopards to seal the title.
The sides met at Brentwood in the National Cup semi-final with Kestrels running out 81-70 winners, but they suffered a heavy defeat against Loughborough Riders in the final.
Leopards’ trip to Eastleigh in January was possibly the low point of their season as they went down 101-60.
Despite his side going down 90-85 againt big spending Thames Valley Cavaliers, Leopards’ forward Chuck Duru believes there are signs of improvement from the Big Cats:
“I think we battled today and were much improved defensively” he said.
“We forced their key players into taking tough contested shots for the majority of the game, which was our game plan going in.
“In contrast to recent games, offence let us down a bit as we missed a number of easy looks in the first half, which ultimately was the difference I felt.
“We must regroup this week and look towards next Sunday where we face league leaders Solent, in a game which may ultimately decide the league title and our play-off hopes.”
In a game that they never led in, Leopards kept in touch the Cavaliers throughout but found American guard Martelle McLemore too hot to handle as he finished with 40 points.
Lee Hodges led the Big Cats with 22 points and 13 rebounds, with Duru adding 15 points and Asante Sandiford 11.
The third period saw the Big Cats play their best basketball of the game.
Cavs opened the fourth period with seven unanswered points but treys from Sandiford and captain Newman kept the home side in touch.
Three pointers from Findlay Wood and Winter made it a two point game with seconds remaining but that was as close as it got as Cavaliers wrapped things up at the foul line.
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