Injury hit Leopards still without a league win

Essex & Herts Leopards coach Thomas Baker was philosophical following his side’s 109-86 defeat at Derby Trailblazers on Saturday.

“We had a good first half again and this is becoming a consistent thing for us that we will have to continue,” he said.

“The start of the third we became a bit tentative and Derby capitalised and punished our mistakes.

“Having had a good game the week before in terms of turnovers, in this one they really hurt us with Derby scoring 34 points of our turnovers.

“We are competing right until the death and we need to keep going, It will be good when have everyone back healthy as injuries are really hurting us right now.”

Despite being without five players due to illness and injury, the Big Cats started well with Jerrelle Okoro giving them an 11-8 lead midway through the first period.

But that was as good as it got for the visitors as they trailed 24-17 at the first break and 49-40 going into the locker room at half-time.

In a poor third period, the visitors were outscored 35-26 which ended their chances of their first league victory.

Hazeef Abdul continued his fine start to the season which sees him leading the Division One scoring, finishing with 40 points in as many minutes, adding ten rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Okoro added 26 points and nine rebounds for the Big Cats, but there were no other players in double figures and the visitors were made to pay for their 25 turnovers.

The Big Cats are also in action on Sunday when they travel to Division Two side Sussex Bears in the National Cup fourth round.

Leopards make their second appearance of the season at Oaklands College on Saturday when Reading Rockets are the visitors, tip-off 5.45pm.,

The Big Cats are expecting a big crowd for the visit of Rockets, and while Leopards are still searching for their first win of the Division One season, Rockets are one of four sides tied in second spot with six wins from eight games.

Alan Keane’s side became the latest side to lose to reigning champions Solent Kestrels on Saturday as they lost 106-89 on the south coast, although that was the closest any side has come to the Southampton team this season.

The clubs are old rivals, with Rockets providing the first opposition at Wodson Park, Ware, when the Big Cats were reformed by their supporters in 2004 and the Berkshire side have provided opposition for Leopards on more occasions than any other club.

Thomas Baker’s side completed a sweep against Rockets last season, beating them in both league games as well as in the National Trophy and a pre-season friendly.

Mick Ferris

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