Leopards’ injury problems continue to mount as they head into Saturday’s game against Worthing Thunder.
With Jerrel Layne likely to miss the rest of the season due to an ankle injury, Obi Egbunike nursing an knee problem and James Cummings ill, the Big Cats lost point guard Prince Lartey with an ankle injury in the narrow loss at Westminster last week.
Coach Thomas Baker moved quickly to re-sign Kevin Moyo as a replacement for Lartey but he lasted only eight minutes against Hemel Storm on Sunday before also damaging his injury.
Leopards were up 33-21 at that stage, but that proved to be as good as it got for them as Storm took control after Moyo’s departure and ran out 116-84 winners.
The Big Cats had started well with a pair of treys from captain Chuck Duru and back-to-back baskets from Jerrelle Okoro helped them into an early 10-8 lead, and both Moyo and Hafeez Abdul scored from long range to help them into a 29-21 lead.
But the loss of Moyo made an immediate impact as Storm scored seven straight points before Okoro sent Leopards into the first break with a 35-28 lead.
Duru opened the second period scoring but a 9-2 run saw Storm take their first lead of the game at 41-40 with five minutes gone.
A trey from Marius Kartfaniukas put Leopards back in the lead, and Abdul also scored from downtown to keep the hosts ahead.
That proved to be as good as it got for the Big Cats as Storm took control with a 12-0 run before Abdul cut the deficit to 59-51 going into the locker room.
Okoro hit the first basket of the second half, but there was no way back for the hosts as Storm outscored them 33-17 to lead 92-68 and they wrappped up their fourth win in five games with a 24-16 fourth period.
Abdul again led the Big Cats with 37 points, while Okoro finished with a 26 point, 10 rebound double-double and Duru added ten points and six boards.
Things won’t get any easier for Leopards as Thunder become the first Division One visitors to Oaklands.
The Sussex side won the National Trophy and were runners-up in both the league and play-offs last season. They have started the season with three wins and two defeats.
The teams met in Worthing during pre-season with Thunder running out comfortable 117-79 winners.