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Leopards celebrate Trophy win
12:13pm Thursday 28th February 2013 in Sport
BASKETBALL: The National Trophy will be on display when Leopards return to the Brentwood Centre to face Derby Trailblazers on Sunday, tip-off 4pm.
The Big Cats collected their fourth piece of silverware in 13 months with a thrilling 99-91 National trophy victory against Tees Valley Mohawks on Saturday evening.
Coach Robert Youngblood poured in nine points in the extra period as he scored the first five points of overtime and never looked back to win the one piece of silverware which eluded them last season.
Greg Hernandez won the MVP award with 26 points and 12 rebounds along with two steals and as many assists as he played all but 38 seconds of the 45 minutes.
But the unsung hero was probably Carl Josey who finished with eight points and nine boards, but locked down David Hanson who had poured in 27 first half points, and limited the talented British youngster to just four points in the second half and overtime combined.
The win was achieved despite losing captain Taner Adu with an ankle injury early in the fourth period, with the former England international finishing with 25 points and two assists.
Simon Cummings had 23 points, seven boards and six assists, while player-coach had a season-high 15 point, 12 rebound double-double in 35:34 of playing time.
Hansen led the Mohawks with 30 points, seven boards and three assists while DJ Glavin added 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Youngblood couldn’t hide his joy after the success: “It was a fantastic final, and a real up and down game.
In the first quarter we came out very strong playing good defence and got a lead but they were on fire in the second quarter, hitting threes from everywhere. We took the players in at half-time and got them composed and told them we had to play better defence. I put Carl Josey on Hansen and he really locked him up, and restricted him to four points in the second half and overtime “We got together and started playing as a team and outscored them by 13 points in the third period. “The fourth period was back and forth, but we lost Taner with four minutes to go and everyone was worried, but I told Taner we’d win it for him.
“Greg could have given us victory in regulation, but we were great in overtime and the old man [himself] stepped up and scored nine points in overtime.
“It means the world to me, coming back to coach at the first club I played for in this country and giving the fans the one trophy they didn’t wish last season. It was also great to give the Trophy to the club owners as they gave me my first chance at coaching.”
A tired Leopards team missing both Youngblood and Adu were unable to make it a winning weekend on Sunday as they went down 68-65 against Medway Park Crusaders at Crystal Palace.
Cummings led the way with 23 point, four assists and as many steals as the Big Cats overcame a poor start before eventually coming up short.
Hernandez added 13 points and ten boards, with Josey chipping in with eight points and six rebounds, while young guard Dwayne Camile grabbed the chance for some rare court time to finish with seven points. Derby will arrive at Brentwood trying to avoid relegation, sitting in the unaccustomed position of joint 12th with a 4-13 record.
One of those wins came against Leopards when a poor performance in November saw the Big Cats lost 80-65, but they gained revenge in the Trophy quarter-final with an 81-59 victory.
Youngblood’s team are also in action on Saturday when they travel to Hemel Storm looking for their fourth win against the Herts side this season.