Leopards look for revenge

PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 November 2015

Justin Hitchman in action for Essex Leopards (pic: Paul Phillips)

Justin Hitchman in action for Essex Leopards (pic: Paul Phillips)


Big Cats out to tame Storm

Levett Essex Leopards will be looking for revenge when Hemel Storm visit Harlow LeisureZone on Sunday (3.30pm).

The Big Cats were hammered 98-67 when they visited Hemel for a National Trophy tie a month ago in a game which ended in controversy.

Storm coach Dave Titmus called a timeout with just seconds remaining in an apparent attempt to set up a three-point play against what was by then the Leopards’ bench.

That loss ended an incredible 21-game winning streak for the Big Cats against the Hertfordshire team and Steve Ogunjimi’s side will look to return to the form that has seen them win nine of their 10 games at Harlow over the last 14 months.

In common with Leopards, Hemel have split their opening two league games and have had mixed fortunes in the two cup competitions.

A surprise 73-71 loss at Division Town side Loughborough Student Riders saw them exit the National Cup, but four wins in six games have seen them progress to the quarter-finals of the Trophy.

The Big Cats are expecting a large crowd at Harlow, with tickets available through or on the door.

A poor end to the game saw Leopards suffer their first loss in the defence of their Division One title on Sunday as they went down 76-70 against Manchester Magic.

They led 70-66 with 3:40 on the clock but never scored again as the visitors closed out the game on a ten-point run.

Poor starts to box halves saw Leopards make life difficult for themselves as they were outscored 12-2 in the first five minutes of both the first and third periods.

A Justin Hitchman dunk cut the deficit to 21-13 at the first break, and three pointers from Ladi Brown and Will Ashby kept Leopards in touch in the second period before Courtney Van Beest launched a 13-4 run that saw the hosts take the lead for the first time.

Ashby hit a three off Albert Margai’s assist to put the Big Cats up by four before Van Beest ensured they would lead 45-43 at half-time with a jump shot.

Only Tosin Oyelese troubled the scorers for the home side in the opening six minutes of the second half as Magic built a ten point lead before six unanswered points dragged them back into the game and Jamie Hayes cut the deficit to 59-55 going into the final break.

Hitchman drained a three to cap a 7-0 run as Leopards started the fourth period well, and the game was nip and tuck, with threes from Brown and Margai keeping the hosts just in front.

Hitchman scored what proved to be Leopards final points of the game with a jump shot, and although the Big Cats could question how Magic’s tough defence failed to produce a single foul in their favour for over 11 minutes, poor shot selection down the stretch saw the visitors wrap up the win.

Brown led the hosts with 18 points, with Ashby adding 13, Hitchman 12 and Van Beest 11 along with six rebounds.

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