BASKETBALL: Leopards continue their push for the EBL Division One title with another pair of key games this weekend.
The Big Cats host Reading Rockets at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday (4pm) but before then travel to new leaders Derby Trailblazers on Saturday.
Dejan Mihevc’s team will go into the weekend’s games after another pair of victories which saw them set a club record of ten straight league wins.
Bristol Academy Flyers went into the weekend on top of the table, but a fine performance on Saturday evening saw the Big Cats hammer them 89-72 on their own court before Medway Park Crusaders were comfortably beaten 78-61 at Brentwood the following day.
Vernon Teel continued his fine form by recording his fifth and sixth triple-double of the season – to put that into context there had been only one such feat in the previous eight years sine Leopards were reformed.
Teel finished with 30 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists on Saturday, adding five steals, while the following day he had 21 points, 12 boards and as many assists, and again led the team in steals with four.
Ousman Krubally also had a fine weekend as he led the team with 31 points and 15 rebounds on Saturday before finishing with 20 points and 19 boards the following afternoon.
At Bristol, Krubally scored the first nine Leopards points – including a rare three-pointer – as the Big Cats started strongly, and although hosts did hold brief lead, Krubally sent his side into the first break with a 23-19 lead with a single free-throw.
Flyers led for most of the opening minutes in the second quarter, but Krubally gave Leopards a lead they would never lose with 5:25 on the clock, and they went into the locker room at half-time with a 46-39 lead as Teel wrapped up the scoring.
That lead reached 16 with two third period minutes remaining when Teel hit a pair of free-throws, and although Flyers chipped away, the Big Cats were 63-53 up at the final break.
David Buchberger hit nine of his 20 points in the final period as Leopards’ lead only briefly dipped into single figures as the Big Cats took revenge for their National Trophy semi-final defeat.
The following day saw Mihevc’s side start slowly as Crusaders reeled off nine straight points after Teel’s opening score, but they fought back to only trail 18-16 at the first break.
Bradley Wilkinson marked his first start of the season with 7:21 left in the second period as he drained a three-pointer to give Leopards a lead they would never lose, and they went into the half-time break with a 36-32 lead.
A 10-2 run midway through the third period saw Leopards take control of the game, and Krubally’s dunk off Teel’s assist saw Leopards lead 56-44 at the final break.
Krubally capped an 8-0 run to start the fourth period to take the lead out to 20, and Mihevc was able use his younger players during the final stages as Ryan Addison wrapped up the win with a three to delight the large crowd.
Both of this weekend’s meetings see Leopard s facing teams for the first time in the league. Derby have a 13-3 record, and the Big Cats will be looking for revenge after a 97-91 overtime loss in the Trophy group stage.
Derby went on to with the Trophy, so Saturday’s game will see the two sides who have won silverware this season matching up.
Leopards also faced Rockets in the Trophy, and John Lister celebrated his 28th birthday by sinking a three-pointer with just 0.7 seconds remaining to seal an 81-79 overtime victory.