Mauling Leopards make final four

First published in Local Sport

BASKETBALL: ANOTHER dominant performance saw Leopards seal a place in the EBL Final Four with a 93-75 victory against Medway Park Crusaders.

The final scoreline flattered the visitors as the Big Cats led by as many as 33 points heading into the final four minutes before taking their foot off the gas in the closing stages.

An almost full house at the Basildon venue saw the rarity of two players from the same side finish with triple-doubles as David Buchberger recorded the feat for the first time in his career and Vernon Teel racked up an incredible 10th triple of the season.

Buchberger hit five three-pointers as he led the way with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, while Teel had 16 points, 15 boards and 10 assists.

Basildon-based Lukas Volskis added four three-pointers in a 19-point haul, while Ousman Krubally finished with 11 points and nine rebounds in less than 23 minutes of action.

It took Teel just nine seconds to open the scoring after Krubally had won the jump-ball, and he scored the first six points of the game despite missing a pair of free-throws.

Dominic Norton kept Leopards ahead after Kalil Irving — who led all scorers with 25 — had opened the Crusaders’ scoring, and the Big Cats led 30-21 at the first break as Buchberger sunk a trey off Teel’s assist.

Irving opened the second quarter scoring, with Krubally restoring Leopards’ nine-point lead. Volskis made it a 12-point game with a three-pointer and he repeated the trick with 2:38 remaining in the half as the lead grew to 20.

But a technical foul on coach Dejan Mihevc sparked a mini-run from Crusaders as they cut the lead to 53-38 going into the locker room at half-time. Buchberger sunk another trey to open the second half and Leopards scored the first 12 points, capped by a Volskis score off Buchberger’s assist to effectively kill the game off.

A three-point play from Krubally made it a 30-point game with 3:11 left in the third period, and Simonas Bublys scored from downtown with 32 seconds on the clock to see the lead peak at 34 points.

The home side led 83-51 at the final break, and apart from Buchberger and Teel completing their triple-doubles as the Big Cats comfortably wrapped up their 20th straight league victory.

They will now face Leicester Warriors in the semi-final at the Amaechi Centre on April 28 after Karl Brown’s side produced the only away win of the play-off quarter-finals, defeating Worthing Thunder 86-79.

The other semi-final sees Bristol Academy Flyers and Derby Trailblazers, with the final taking place at the same venue on Sunday, April 29.

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