Basketball: Injury-hit Leopards lose again
PUBLISHED: 07:34 12 November 2019 | UPDATED: 07:34 12 November 2019
Leopards coach Thomas Baker was left disappointed as his injury-hit side lost 108-97 at Thames Valley Cavaliers on Saturday.
But he believes the Big Cats are making progress after producing arguably their best performance of the season against big-spending rivals in a seventh straight league defeat.
He said: "Having started the game well we are disappointed to not come away from TVC with the result we wanted.
"Credit to Cavs, they punished mistakes we made and made us chase the game in the last few moments. For us we have to know we are heading in the right direction, we are a different team now than we were at the beginning of the season and I am confident if we keep up these positive performances and stay focussed on our game plan, we will come good.
"It will be good to start getting guys back to full fitness given the disruption to our line-up, with four guys out at the moment. We must persevere in the direction we are heading as the results will come."
Leopards produced some of their best basketball of the campaign in the first half as Hafeez Abdul drained three triples to help them into a 20-11 lead.
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Ray Akpofure and Jerrelle Okoro also scored from downtown as Leopards went into the first break with a 30-25 lead, and skipper Chuck Duru kept them ahead with a triple early in the second quarter before repeating the trick to put his side 44-35 up at the midway stage of the period.
Cavs' American veteran Martelle McLemore cut the lead to four before the ejection of Aiman Rezk, who collected a personal and two technical fouls in the space of 10 seconds which seemed to change the game.
Abdul converted both free-throws but the Big Cats then collected a rash of fouls during the rest of the game, including a technical on injured point guard Prince Lartey as he sat on the bench.
Thames Valley finished on an 8-3 run, thanks mainly to American TJ Johnson, to lead 53-52 at half-time and scored the first five points of what proved to be a tough third period for Baker's side.
A. Sylla made it a 16-point game with a lay-up midway through the period, but the Big Cats plugged away and a single Okoro free-throw cut the deficit to 82-70 at the final break.
Leopards had one more run left in them as a pair of Abdul free-throws brought them within five at 90-85 with 4.45 on the clock but Blaine Freckleton's trey launched a 7-0 run for the home side to effecitvely wrap up their win.
Abdul continued his league-leading scoring run with 33 points, four rebounds, two steals, assists and blocks. Duru finished with an impressive 18-point, 14-rebound double-double and Okoro had 24 points, six boards and four assists.
Leopards continue their tough start to the season with a trip to Derby Trailblazers on Saturday. The Midlands side are joint sixth with a 4-3 record after a home defeat against champions Solent Kestrels last weekend.