BASKETBALL: ESSEX Leopards found high-flying Leicester Riders too strong on Sunday as they went out of the BBL Trophy with a 105-63 loss at a packed Brentwood Centre.
The Midlands side have lost only two of their 17 games this season and pulled away in the second half to give the final score-line a flattering look.
Leopards were led by 17 Simon Cummings points, with Greg Hernandez adding 14 points and seven rebounds. And coach Robert Youngblood remained upbeat after the game.
“I was pleased with how we played in the first half, but a three-week break showed in the last few minutes,” said Youngblood.
“I think the score-line flattered them a bit, but the first half gave us something to build on next weekend.”
Any chance of an upset was effectively ruled out in the opening period as Leopards were called for an incredible 10 fouls, with Youngblood and fellow big men Lawrence Brown and Dan Dunscombe each picking up two and the bench also collecting a technical foul.
Taner Adu opened the scoring, and although Jay Couisnard replied, Youngblood gave Leopards what proved to be their final lead of the game when he put them 4-2 ahead.
Cummings and Adu both levelled the score but Riders got themselves on a run as they secured an 18-5 burst to take the score out to 26-13, which they held on to to lead 30-15 at the end of the opening period.
In the second quarter, Riders began strongly as they steadily increased their lead out to 19 points with 3:51 remaining in the period. Leopards were not to be outdone, however, as eight straight points from Cummings cut the deficit to 11.
And then Hernandez wrapped up the first half scoring to cut Riders’ lead to 43-34 at half-time time.
That was as good as it got for Youngblood’s team though, as Riders stepped up the defensive pressure in the second half, limiting the home side to 12 points in the third period while adding 23 of their own.
Leopards noticeably tired in the final stanza and the visitors pulled away for a big victory.