Delight for Leopards as win number two boosts survival hopes
- Credit: Archant
Essex & Herts Leopards’ coach Thomas Baker couldn’t hide his delight after his side boosted their National Basketball League Division One survival hopes with an 81-77 victory against Westminster Warriors.
The Big Cats added England international Orlan Jackman late last week and his presence provided a calmness and composure at crucial moments allowing Oaklands College junior Toby Gastaldi-Davies to sink two free-throws and clinch the victory.
"It is great to finally pick up another win," enthused Baker. "We have been pushing for this for a while now and we have been close in some games but it feels great to get over the line."
Jackman had an impressive debut as he played all 40 minutes and finished with 13 points in front of the biggest crowd of the season at Oaklands.
Gastaldi-Davies hit 11 points in total while skipper Chuck Duru leading the scoring on 17.
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Prince Lartey, James Cummings and Teni Mongo also made double figures with 13, 11 and 10 respectively.
Triples from Ray Akpofure, Jackman and Duru helped send the hosts into the first break with a 26-19 lead but Warriors closed out the second quarter strongly to cut the Big Cats' advantage to 44-43 by half-time.
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The visitors then established an early lead in the second half and it took six straight Lartey points to cut the gap to 62-58 at the final break.
Gastaldi-Davies sunk a triple to open the last 10 minutes but it wasn't until the 7:32 to go mark that they home side regained the lead, Cummings driving to the basket and converting.
Another three from Gastaldi-Davies levelled the score at 68 and triples from Duru and Gastaldi-Davies gave Leopards a 75-70 lead with three minutes left.
Johnson and Jackman exchanged baskets before a single Hitchman free-throw made it a four-point game heading into the final minute.
Cummings split a pair at the line before Johnson cut the lead to three with 30 seconds left.
Akpofure sent Khalil to the foul line where he made it a one-point game before Warriors fouled Lartey with 10 seconds on the clock.
The Londoner hit his first free-throw before the second one only for Akpofure to grab the rebound and pass to Gastaldi-Davies. The youngster was fouled and coolly sunk both free-throws to seal the win.
Leopards have to wait until February 1 to return to action when they travel to now derby rivals Hemel Storm.