Mixed fortunes for Leopards

PUBLISHED: 19:21 19 November 2010

First-ever win in Reading followed by cup exit

A mixed weekend saw Leopards record their first ever win at Reading Rockets but their National Cup dreams end with a narrow 82-79 home loss against Derby Trailblazers.

Mark Clark’s team had trailed by 11 going into the last five minutes of Sunday’s quarter-final at Brentwood, but despite a fine comeback from the Big Cats, Simeon Espirit’s last-gasp shot couldn’t send the game into overtime.

Josh Sharlow led the scoring for the home side with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Espirit added 19 points. Despite playing under ten minutes in the first three period due to foul trouble, seven foot centre Leigh Greenan finished with 13 points.

The Big Cats had rushed into a 17-8 lead, but were pegged back to 22-22 at the first break and went into the locker room trailing 37-34 at half time.

A poor third period saw them down by eight at final break, and the gap reached double digits before a Greenan basket sparked a comeback.

Meanwhile, a strong fourth period saw Leopards win their first ever game in Reading as the Rockets were beaten 73-61 on Saturday.

The Big Cats had lost their previous nine games in Berkshire, but they produced some stifling defence in the closing stanza to move up to joint fourth in the Division One table.

The visiting side trailed by six points with seven minutes left, but held the Rockets scoreless for five minutes as they poured in 14 straight points before wrapping the win up from the foul line.

Sharlow again led the way for the Leopards with 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Greenan added 14 points and five boards. Josh Johnson (12) and Espirit (10) also finished in double figures.

Leopards trailed by one at the first break, and that deficit doubled at half time before the teams shared 32 third-period points.

Ryan Lohfink doubled that lead with the opening shot of the final quarter, and despite scores from Owen-Thomas and Greenan, a Matt Guymon trey put Reading 56-50 ahead going into the final seven minutes.

At that point Leopards noticeably stepped up their defence and Sharlow launched the streak which sealed victory.

Repeated steals by the Big Cats saw Rockets held scoreless as two three-point plays from Greenan saw his side take a 64-56 lead.

Robbie Parker broke the run with a trey, but although Leopards struggled from the line as Reading fouled to stop the clock, the hosts were restricted to four points in the remaining two minutes as Leopards wrapped up a second consecutive away league victory.

The Big Cats will look to continue that good away form tomorrow when they travel to Leeds Carnegie.

The Yorkshire side won their opening eight games of the season before going down at Manchester on Sunday.

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