Hemel Storm hang on for win as Leopards show attacking strengths late on
- Credit: Archant
Essex & Herts Leopards will look to build on a great fourth period display against Hemel Storm when they host Thames Valley Cavaliers at Oaklands College on Saturday.
The Big Cats outscored second-placed Storm 38-18 in the final quarter but were edged out 99-93 at the final buzzer.
Yet coach Thomas Baker was pleased with his new-look side's improvement.
He said: "The performance overall showed the growth we have come on from the addition of new players and the existing ones stepping up.
"Unfortunately we missed too many easy chances and gave Hemel multiple extra points from the foul line and they capitalised on our mistakes.
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"The fourth quarter showed the strength of us offensively. We must make adjustments in game and ensure we play better but I am excited to see how this group gels together and improves in the latter stages of this season."
Cavaliers will arrive on Saturday third in National Basketball League Division One with a 13-4 record. Tip-off at Oaklands College is 5.45pm.
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The match against their newest derby rivals saw a very different looking Big Cats start the contest. There were debuts for Elvishi Dusha and Osvaldas Gaizauskas alongside recent signings Orlan Jackman, Prince Larty and Teni Mongo.
Albanian international Dusha certainly made an immediate impact, leading the Big Cats with 23 points, seven assists and three rebounds, while Gaizauskas finished with 15 points and nine boards.
Lartey hit a triple with four first period minutes remaining to put his side 14-13 ahead but that proved to be the last time the Big Cats led as Bode Adeluola launched an 8-0 run to send Storm into the first break leading 22-14.
That advantage was stretched to 44-33 by half-time and an absolute disaster in the third period meant they trailed by 22 with just six minutes to go.
But captain Chuck Duru launched a 13-3 run capped by a Dush triple to make it 91-77 with 2:39 on the clock.
It was always seemingly out of reach for the Leopards as they made it 97-88 with 27 seconds remaining but a Larty triple and a free-throw from Aaron Williams made it a five-point game.
That was as close as they got though as Storm closed out the win.