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Leopards storm back for Hemel win
2:54pm Thursday 7th March 2013 in Local Sport
BASKETBALL: When Leopards return to the court for Sunday’s key game against Leeds Carnegie at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday, player-coach Robert Youngblood will be hoping for a less heart-stopping victory.
The Big Cats followed up their heart-stopping National Trophy final success to come from behind to win twice over the weekend, but Youngblood admitted it was a bit close for comfort.
He said: “I’m sure they’re great to watch, though could lead to heart attacks for the committed, but we saw against Medway that sometimes even the comeback kids don’t come back.
“Leeds are a very good team, they won’t give us the chance to survive a big deficit.”
Carnegie are second in the table with a 14-6 record having defeated Leopards 74-68 a month ago, and the game is key for both sides as they look to push for home-court advantage in the play-offs.
The game at the Brentwood Centre tips-off at 4pm with the Big Cats expecting another bumper crowd.
Leopards staged the biggest comeback in their 18-year history to win an overtime thriller at Hemel Storm 89-83, on Saturday night.
Youngblood’s side trailed by 28 midway through the third period but restricted the home side to seven points in the final 12 minutes to tie the game, and Simon Cummings even had a chance to win the game in regulation before his shot rimmed out.
Leopards were without captain Taner Adu and Rowell Graham due to injury, and a listless performance in the first two-thirds of regulation time had looked likely to end in a first defeat against the Hemel franchise (which Leopards had beaten 14 straight times in their various guises) before they dug deep to win their tenth league game of the season.
Cummings led the way for Leopards with 22 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two assists, while American compatriot Greg Hernandez had 19 points and eight boards.
Youngblood added 15 despite both him and Hernandez being forced to sit for long spells due to foul trouble, while Tom Martin scored a season-high 13 points after starting in place on the injured Adu..
Youngblood came back into the game with 40 seconds remaining after sitting down for 11 minutes due to foul trouble after Hernandez’s back-to-back scores had made it a five point game.
But it was Cummings who stepped up hitting a two before draining a three with 19 seconds remaining to tie the game.
The Leopards’ defence tied the hosts again with Cummings coming up with the ball and six seconds on the clock, but as he drove to the basket, he shot wouldn’t drop.
The following day’s 81-79 win against Derby Trailblazers in front of a packed Brentwood Centre wasn’t quite as spectacular, Leopards trailed for all but the opening and closing stages before Carl Josey hit a basket with 2:33 on the clock to give them a lead they would never lose.
Cummings again stop scored for Leopards with 27 points to add to his six boards and four steals and assists. Hernandez added 18 points, eight boards and four assists while Martin had 11 points and five assists.
The result lifted the Big Cats up to fifth in the table with 11 wins from 19 games.
There is a chance for youngsters to train with the Leopards at their Good Friday Camp prior to the game against Brixton Topcats. See www.leopardsbasketball .co.uk for details.