Leopards looking for more success as Rockets downed
PUBLISHED: 09:17 06 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:17 06 March 2020
Leopards go into one of the biggest weekends in their history on the back of an excellent 97-91 overtime win at Reading Rockets.
The Big Cats visit bottom club Liverpool on Saturday, before hosting Nottingham Hoods at Oaklands College on Sunday (3.30pm).
And they look to complete a double on Merseyside after a 97-77 win over Liverpool (2-20) in November against a side beaten 138-72 by Solent last weekend.
A Leopards win would effectively relegate their rivals and leave Thomas Baker's side only two wins from safety, with Nottingham (7-14) having won 85-80 when the sides met in December.
Sunday's win at Reading was Leopards' first away league victory of the season, giving them a real chance of avoiding the drop and Baker said: "We always had this win in us. The desire and competitiveness we showed was flawless at times. Right from the pre-game to the end.
"We shot the ball well and we gave everything we could to the defensive end. I felt we were connected from coaches to players and it showed in how we finished the game. I hope we can continue that in what will be a massive weekend for us."
Elvisi Dusha was the star as the Albanian international played through a back injury to score 34 points, including six of nine three-point attempts, six assists and five rebounds.
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England's Orlan Jackman added a 20-point, 12-rebound double-double and Lithuanian Os Gaizuaskas had 11 points and six boards.
It was a tight game throughout, with 19 lead changes and 12 ties, with Leopards' 64-56 lead in the third period the biggest of the game and their 11-0 run to close out overtime the biggest of the game.
Leopards led for almost all of the first period, as Jackman shot sent them into the first break 21-20 ahead.
Ben Dixon's lay-up looked to have given Rockets a half-time lead only for a perfectly run play after a timeout to end with Dush draining a three to put Leopards 44-42 up.
Toby Gastaldi-Davis sank a triple to open up a five-point lead after the restart and Dusha's triple meant they could survive a late 5-0 Rockets run to go into the fourth quarter with a 64-62 lead.
But with a short rotation - only six players played double-digit minutes despite the extra period - Leopards tired in the fourth period and David Chive's trey put Rockets 78-71 ahead.
Jackman's trey cut the deficit to one with 3.21 left but Reading led by three with 85 seconds to go, before Dusha sank the triple to tie the game as it ended 86-86.
Richards hit the first five points of the extra period but triples from Gastaldi-Davis and Gaizuaskas put Leopards back in front and Jackman and Gaizuaskas wrapped up a massive win from the foul line.