Leopards look for some Magic
PUBLISHED: 09:30 29 January 2016
Big Cats aim to topple leaders
Levett Essex Leopards will aim to make it four straight league wins when they visit Division One leaders Manchester Magic tomorrow (Saturday).
A dominant second period wasn’t enough to prevent Leopards going down 76-70 when the teams met at Brentwood in November and Magic have lost once in 13 league games this season.
A 97-84 win over Worthing saw them retain the National Cup on Sunday, after Paul Middleton’s side won the Cup and National Trophy last season, were runners-up to Leopards in Division One and reached the play-off final.
Leopards will go into the game full of confidence after a stunning come-from-behind 72-70 win against Reading.
The Big Cats fought back from a 17-point first-half deficit to beat their oldest rivals, with Dougie Bennett scoring off Ladi Brown’s assist with less than a second on the clock to win it.
Even after Leopards had fought back from a big deficit, the visitors looked likely to take the win as they had the ball with 7.3 seconds remaining.
But D’Montre Edwards’ shot rimmed out and Brown’s tenth rebound set up Bennett for the winner as Will Ashby (18 points) led the scoring effort for a Leopards team missing Tom Martin, Connor Stuart and Evan Walshe.
Brown had 15 points, while Jamie Hayes took advantage of the extra minutes available in Stuart’s absence to finish with a season-high 11.
Justin Hitchman added nine points and five boards, Courtney Van Beest eight points and captain Albert Margai six points and as many rebounds.
Rockets scored the first six points, before Van Beest got Leopards off the mark, but captain Danny Carter sank two treys to put Reading 16-4 up.
Brown ended Leopards’ drought and a pair of Brian Nguru points in an 8-0 run cut the deficit to 19-15.
Despite struggling at the foul line, Reading had a 15-3 run in the second period and took a 39-24 lead into the locker room at half time.
Brown’s trey made it an 11-point game early in the second half and he sank another, along with Bennett, to make it 57-46 at the final break.
A pair of Brown jump shots sparked a 10-2 tear to drag Leopards back into it and Margai gave them their first lead with 4.54 left to set up the tense finale.