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Essex Leopards tumble out of BBL Trophy

PUBLISHED: 13:00 23 January 2017

Darrell Bethune in action for Essex Leopards against Plymouth (pic Paul Phillips)

Darrell Bethune in action for Essex Leopards against Plymouth (pic Paul Phillips)

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Levett Essex Leopards 64 Plymouth Raiders 93

Jamie Hayes opens the scoring for Essex Leopards against Plymouth (pic Paul Phillips)Jamie Hayes opens the scoring for Essex Leopards against Plymouth (pic Paul Phillips)

Essex Leopards’ hopes of securing a second BBL Trophy giant-killing was ended by an impressive Plymouth Raiders side at a packed Brentwood Centre last night.

The loss of Mike Martin with an Achilles injury in the second quarter proved crucial as the Big Cats had matched the visitors until that point, but the home side still put on a decent display, with AJ Roberts leading the way.

The American guard produced a couple of huge dunks as he won the game MVP trophy presented by Brentwood Leisure Trust CEO Roger Davinson, finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Jamie Hayes opened the scoring with a lay-up off Roberts’ assist and treys for Darrell Bethune and Roberts saw the hosts lead 10-6 after four minutes.

AJ Roberts attacks for Essex Leopards against Plymouth (pic Paul Phillips)AJ Roberts attacks for Essex Leopards against Plymouth (pic Paul Phillips)

That proved to be as good as it got, though, despite Bethune putting them 15-14 ahead with three minutes on the clock, as it took a Martin basket to cut the deficit to 20-19 at the first break.

Roberts kept his side in touch with a tip-in early in the second period and Hayes tied the score at 24-24 as he converted a triple, but the visitors answered with a 12-0 run as Leopards were held scoreless for more than six minutes.

Bethune broke the run from long range and Hayes hit a jump shot to cut the deficit to 39-29 at half-time.

With Martin out of action the second half proved to be a long one for the home side as Peter Hooley took control of the game, hitting three triples in a 17-4 run, effectively killing off the game.

Despite treys from Bethune and Hayes the visitors had the game effectively sewn up at 77-50 going into the final break,

Hooley hit his eighth trey of the game to open the fourth period, but Leopards coach Steve Ogunjimi was able to give some valuable court time to youngster Dom Scott-Robinson and Shaq Lewis and Justin Hitchman hit four points as he continued his comeback from injury.

Bethune finished with 14 points and five boards, with Hayes adding 12 points and nine rebounds, as Hooley had a season-high 33 points for Raiders.

Shorthanded Leopards fell to a disappointing 63-53 loss at Loughborough Riders a day earlier, with captain Martin and Tosin Oyelese both missing.

Roberts led the way again with a massive 18-point, 15-rebound double-double, but Dougie Bennett – captaining the side for the first time – was the only other visiting player in double figures with 11 points and three assists.

A painful start to the game saw only Bethune score a field goal as the Big Cats trailed 15-4 going into the final minute of the opening period, before Hayes and Bennett hit free-throws to cut the deficit to eight at the first break.

Bennett converted from long range to open what proved to be a good second period for the Big Cats and a 10-3 run launched by Hitchman saw them tie the score at 22-22.

Bennett gave the Big Cats their first lead of the game with a pair of free-throws, but the offensive woes returned as Riders closed out the half on a 5-0 run to lead 27-24.

Roberts opened the third period scoring for Leopards, but they trailed by at least four points throughout the stanza and despite the American converting a lay-up, the visitors were 45-34 down at the final break.

The home side extended that lead to 17 after four fourth-period minutes, but the visitors showed they wouldn’t go quietly as Roberts and Bethune chipped away at the deficit.

Roberts made it a 10-point game heading into the final two minutes, but an offence that lasted 35 seconds and saw three shots didn’t produce any points as Riders closed out the win.


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