Leopards too strong for Topcats

BASKETBALL: Leopards will look to continue their winning run when they host Leicester Warriors at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday afternoon, tip-off 4pm.

The Big Cats go into a weekend which also sees them visit Bristol Academy Flyers in the National Trophy semi-final on an eight game winning streak following Sunday’s 78-66 victory against Brixton Topcats.

They will face a Leicester side who have surpassed all expectations by sitting in joint third place in the EBL Division One with nine wins from 13 games.

Former Leopards Karl Brown and his side have specialised in winning tight games, including a 92-89 victory at Braunstone Leisure Centre in mid-November.

Leopards were without David Buchberger and Ousman Krubally for that game, and having been in BBL Trophy action the night before, they noticeably tired down the stretch and let a double-digit lead slip.

A big crowd is expected at the Brentwood Centre as the Leopards will have the National Cup on display, but before then they will aim for another victory against the Bristol side they defeated in last week’s final.

The Trophy semi-final at Filton College will be the fifth straight time that the Big Cats have been drawn away in a last four game, and Leopards will be hoping to pile on the misery for a Flyers team who lost top spot in Division One with a home loss against Worthing Thunder on Saturday.

Buchberger led the scoring for the first time in his Leopards career as the Big Cats overcame a poor start to gain revenge for November’s loss at Brixton.

Buchberger finished with 18 points, six assists and four rebounds in 33 minutes as a half-time change of tactics from coach Dejan Mihevc proved key.

With point guard Vernon Teel receiving little protection from the refs as he appeared to be repeatedly fouled while dribbling the ball down the court, Buchberger was switched to his spot, and the move paid off as the home side outscored Brixton 51-33 in the second half.

Ousman Krubally posted another double-double, finishing with 16 points and 14 rebounds, with John Lister (13) and Lukas Volskis (10) also finishing in double figures as Teel was limited to eight points and as many rebounds – adding five steals and four assists.

The Big Cats scored the final four points of the first period, but still trailed 20-19 at the first break and although Buchberger’s three-pointer levelled things midway through the second quarter, it was the visitors who went into the locker room at half-time with a 33-27 lead.

The third period saw Leopards fight their way back into the game, closing the gap to a single point at the five minute mark before going into the final break with a 51-50 advantage.

A strong start to the fourth quarter saw Leopards go on a 14-4 run as they took control of the game and despite Krubally fouling out on a bizarre offensive call, the closed out their six league win of the campaign.

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