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EBL Division One clash goes to Essex's hoop stars
7:17pm Tuesday 12th March 2013 in Sport
BASKETBALL: ESSEX Leopards continued their push for the runners-up spot in EBL Division One with an 81-69 victory against Leeds Carnegie on Sunday.
On a day that the reigning champions saw their crown taken by Reading Rockets, Robert Youngblood’s team produced an excellent performance in the battle between the National Trophy and Cup holders.
A stunning third period which saw Ish Fontaine pour in three three-pointers proved the difference between Leopards and second placed Carnegie as they outscored the visitors 23-11 at the Brentwood Centre.
Simon Cummings led the Leopards’ scoring for a fourth straight game with 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds, while Greg Hernandez had a massive 21 point, 17 rebound double-double.
On his first start for the Big Cats, Fontaine finished with five three-pointers on the way to 19 points, while Carl Josey added nine points and four assists.
It was a depleted Leopards’ team, with captain Taner Adu seemingly out for the rest of the season with the Achilles injury suffered in the Trophy final, Rowell Graham still struggling with an ankle injury and Dan Dunscombe ill, but the Big Cats dug deep for their seventh win in nine games.
They remain sixth in the standings but are now just four points behind second placed Leeds. This weekend, the Big Cats face a trip across London on Sunday to face Westminster Warriors in what looks likely to be a key game for Youngblood’s team.
After being reprieved from relegation last season, the 10th placed Warriors who are coached by former Leopards’ guard Matt Collins, have had a much better season and are chasing a play-off spot.
The sides met at the Brentwood Centre in December, with Greg Hernandez and Cummings combining for 51 points in a narrow 79-74 victory.