Levett Essex Leopards lose to London Lituanica

Shaq Lewis in action for Essex Leopards against London Lituanica (pic Paul Phillips)

Shaq Lewis in action for Essex Leopards against London Lituanica (pic Paul Phillips) - Credit: Archant

Leopards 70 London Lituanica 74

Darrell Bethune attacks the basket for Essex Leopards (pic Paul Phillips)

Darrell Bethune attacks the basket for Essex Leopards (pic Paul Phillips) - Credit: Archant

A depleted Levett Essex Leopards line-up went down in a thriller against London Lituanica at the weekend,.

With Mike Martin and Dominic Scott-Robinson unwell and Justin Hitchman still suffering from a foot injury, the Big Cats had just eight fit players, forcing coach Steve Ogunjimi to kit up, although he didn’t get on the court.

The Big Cats led for most of the second half, but eventually came up short as the Lithuanians scored seven of the final eight points to gain revenge for Leopards’ early-season Trophy victory.

Darrell Bethune led the way for the Leopards with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while AJ Roberts added 14 points and Jamie Hayes 12 points and nine rebounds.

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Tosin Oyelese had his best game for a while, finishing with nine points and as many rebounds as all eight Leopards players got on the scoreboard.

Bethune opened the scoring with a trey, but the visiting side led for most of the first period before triples from Perry Lawson and Hayes cut the deficit to 24-22 at the first break.

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Lituanica were 34-28 ahead midway through the second period before a Hayes put-back launched a 13-3 run to close out the half.

Roberts, Bethune and Shaq Lewis all added to the score before baskets from Lewis and Bethune sent them into the locker room with a 43-37 lead.

A foul-strewn third period saw the Big Cats called for nine infringements while the physical Lithuanians committed just three fouls as they went to the charity stripe 14 times.

But with Roberts hitting a pair of threes in his 10-point haul in the quarter, the hosts maintained their six-point lead at 58-52 going into the final break.

Oyelese opened the fourth-quarter scoring, but a pair of threes from the visitors saw them take the lead at 64-61 only for Leopards to respond with six straight points to lead by three heading into the final two minutes.

Inevitably the game was decided at the foul line as the home side were called four times down the stretch with the visitors scoring six of their eight free-throws, and despite Hayes keeping them ahead in the final minute before a Guzys jump shot with 15 seconds on the clock sealed the win for Lituanica,

Leopards will look to wrap up 2016 with a victory when they host Lancashire Spinners at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday (4pm).

Spinners will arrive at Brentwood sitting three places above Leopards in eighth with four wins from 10 games.

That is a considerable improvement after a disappointing Trophy campaign saw them lose all three games, while in the National Cup they annihilated Liverpool 119-50 in the third round before losing 114-109 in an overtime thriller at Bradford Dragons.

The two teams were certainly evenly-matched last season with both games resulting in 12-point wins for the hosts, and finishing level with 16-10 records as Leopards edged Spinners into seventh place due to over-all points difference.

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