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Crunch time for the Leopards
10:50am Friday 11th October 2013 in Local Sport
BASKETBALL: As they prepare to host Tees Valley Mohawks at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday, it’s crunch time for Leopards in their defence of the National Trophy.
Saturday’s home loss against Manchester Magic saw their record drop to 0-2, and they need at least one win from a weekend that also sees them visit Worthing Thunder on Saturday.
Mohawks arrive at Brentwood with two wins from their four Trophy games this season, with both of those victories coming at home.
As well as the overtime thriller in last year’s final, the teams also met in the play-off quarter-finals with the Big Cats running out winners.
“We know we need to win both games over the weekend” said coach Robert Youngblood. “Saturday’s performance against Magic wasn’t acceptable, and the players know that I expect better.”
Sunday’s action at the Brentwood Centre tips off at 4pm with tickets available on the door.
Saturday’s trip to Worthing sees Leopards facing the other winless team in the group, with all of Thunder’s three losses coming on the road.
Thunder added an American to their roster prior to Sunday’s trip to Plymouth Marjon but it wasn’t enough to prevent them slipping to 67-64 overtime loss.
A dominant second half performance saw Leopards through to the third round of the National Cup with a 72-45 victory against Barking Abbey at Southend on Sunday.
The young visitors – who included Joe Lockwood and Josh Steel from Leopards 2012 treble winning side – made the Big Cats fight all the way in the first half before a defensive lockdown in the third period saw them limited to four points and allowed Robert Youngblood’s team to win.
Leopards will now face Hemel Storm or Medway Park Crusaders in the last 16 at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday, October 27.
Howard Crawford led the way for the Big Cats, finishing a rebound short of a double-double with 22 points, while the rest of the scoring was shared out with all ten of the players getting on the scoresheet.
Captain Carl Josey added six rebounds to his nine points, while Ish Fontaine and Tom Martin each hit eight points.
With summer signing Siman Stewart still out with an injury and American point guard Kris Clark unavailable due to National Cup qualification rules, veteran point guard Ronnie Baker started in his place and finished with eight assists and seven boards to go with his three points.
Ultimately, Leopards domination on the board proved the difference between the teams as they out-rebounded the visitors 48-29, with that disparity leading to 19 more shots.
Leopards suffered their second straight National Trophy loss as a poor first half display saw them go down 82-68 against Magic at the Brentwood Centre on Saturday.
A disastrous first period saw Youngblood’s team trail 33-13 at the first break and they were down by as many as 26 points early in the second period, and although they chipped the deficit down to single digits in the second half, the damage had been done.
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