Essex Levett Leopards handed home tie in National Cup

Essex Leopards head coach Steve Ogunjimi

Essex Leopards head coach Steve Ogunjimi - Credit: Archant

Big Cats to welcome Ipswich, Chelmsford or Essex Blades

Essex Levett Leopards have a received a home draw in the National Cup and will host lower division opposition at Harlow Leisurezone on Sunday October 16.

The Big Cats will host the winner of the second-round tie between Ipswich and Chelmsford Lions or Essex Blades.

In an attempt to avoid blowouts in the early stages – Leopards’ first defence of the competition in 2006 resulted in a 72-point win – the competition has been expanded by a round, with Steve Ogunjimi’s side entering at the third round (last 32).

Lions will host Blades in the first round, with the winner travelling to Suffolk to face Ipswich.

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The winner of Leopards’ third-round tie will travel in the next stage, with London Lituanica or Kent Crusaders being the most likely opponents, although the Big Cats could face their nursery side Oaklands College Wolves.

The fifth round would see the Big Cats return to Harlow on November 20, if they qualify, with Hemel Storm or Reading Rockets the most likely qualifiers.

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Ipswich have consistently challenged for promotion from Division Two, finishing fifth last season with a 13-9 record before going out of the play-offs at the quarter-final stage.

Chelmsford are a new side but were formed from the core of Brentwood Fire who have split their parent club.

After finishing eighth in Division Three South last season, the new-look Lions have been forced to drop down to Division Four South where they are expected to challenge for promotion.

Blades are Essex University’s side and the Colchester-based outfit finished fourth in Division Four South-East with 10 wins from 18 games.

As well as winning the competition in the 2005/6 season, when Ogunjimi was a key member of the side that defeated Reading, Leopards also lifted the oldest piece of silverware in British basketball in 2012 when they won a thriller against Bristol Flyers.

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