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Leopards look to keep title push alive

PUBLISHED: 13:00 13 March 2014

Leopards Ronnie Baker goes on the attack against Hemel Storm (pic: Paul Phillips)

Leopards Ronnie Baker goes on the attack against Hemel Storm (pic: Paul Phillips)

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Big Cats aim to silence Thunder

Leopards will look to maintain their EBL Division One title charge when they host Worthing Thunder at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday (4pm).

The Big Cats’ 89-83 victory at leaders Hemel Storm on Saturday gave their title hopes a massive boost with Robert Youngblood’s team now holding the head-to-head decider against the Herts team.

And they will look to extend a run which has seen them win seven of their last eight games against a Thunder side who arrive at the Brentwood Centre in 10th place in Division One with an 8-14 record.

Athough they look safe from relegation, they will still look to keep their outside chances of the play-offs alive.

The Big Cats have travelled to Worthing twice this season, losing 80-69 in the National Trophy group stage before gaining revenge with an 89-72 league victory.

At Hemel, Carl Josey drained four three-pointers in the first half on the way to a team-high 21 points as Leopards led for most of the game before holding off a late surge from the hosts.

Kris Clark and Howard Crawford scored 15 points apiece while veteran point guard Ronnie Baker drained some key free-throws in the final minutes as the Big Cats collected their 15th win of the season.

Clark opened the scoring before Josey’s first trey of the game put the visitors 6-2 ahead, and Josey drained back-to-back triples to give his side a 23-14 lead at the first break.

Storm reduced the Big Cats’ lead to five off a Bode Adeluola basket, but Andre Lockhart and Josey both drained from outside the arc before Lockhart’s assist saw Josey take his tally to 16 for the half and send Leopard into locker room with a 45-33 lead.

Lockhart opened the second half scoring before an injury to former Leopard Zac Wells held the game up, but Josey’s fifth three-pointer of the game gave the visitors an 11-point lead with four third period minutes left.

Dru Spinks made it a six-point game with 3:38 of the period remaining, but a time-out from Youngblood clamed things down, and Clark sent Leopards into the final break with a 64-54 lead.

The hosts started the fourth period with a 7-0 run capped by an Adeluola basket and a pair of Spinks free-throws tied the game at 70-70 with 5:44 on the clock.

Clark drained from downtown to restore Leopards’ lead but a pair of Adeluola free-throws gave the home side their first lead of the game with four minutes remaining.

It was nip and tuck from then on with neither side able to lead by more than a point, and Leopards went into the final two minutes a point down after a Crawford miss.

The introduction of England’s most capped player, Baker, calmed Leopards and some tough defence saw him steal the ball and drain a pair of free-throws to put his side ahead.

Clark also drained a pair at the charity stripe as Storm were forced to foul, and Baker hit four straight free-throws to put his side up by seven with nine seconds left.

Hemel’s Mark Darlow drained a trey to give his side some faint hope, but Clark remained cool at the foul line to ice the win.


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