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Leopards crash out of the Trophy
11:20am Friday 18th October 2013 in Local Sport
ESSEX Leopards’ defence of the National Trophy ended with a pair of defeats.
The Big Cats, who won last season’s competition, were beaten 80-69 at Worthing Thunder on Saturday before being seen off 72-70 in an overtime thriller against Tees Valley Mohawks at the Brentwood Centre.
That made it four straight defeats for Leopards in the competition and disappointed head coach Robert Youngblood.
“We clearly need to change things around” said Youngblood.
“Some of the players have been told they need to improve and we need to sort things out quickly with the cup game at the end of the month.”
But Leopards cannot advance past the group stage of the trophy and will use Sunday’s clash at Medway Park Crusaders to give Youngblood and forward Siman Stewart some much needed court time.
Leopards controlled the first half at Worthing, outscoring the hosts by five in each period to lead 37-27 going into the locker room after a buzzer beater from captain Carl Josey.
However, the second half proved to be little short of a disaster for the Big Cats as the home side took the initiative with a 9-0 run and they went into the final break leading 52-49 after outscoring Leopards 25-12.
Another 9-0 burst extended the lead to 72-64 and despite another three from Ronnie Baker, the hosts held their nerve to register their first win in the Trophy.
Despite fouling out with over a minute to go, Howard Crawford led Leopards with 21 points but he was the only visitor in double figures.
The following day saw Leopards control the game for long periods without pulling away to allow the side they beat in last season’s final end their hopes of a repeat.
Crawford again led the way with 21 points and 12 boards, with Josey also getting a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Kris Clark added 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
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