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A pair of contrasting victories over the weekend have thrown Essex & Herts Leopards a relegation lifeline, and they go into next Saturday’s game against Barking Abbey at Oaklands knowing that a fourth straight win will ensure another season of Division One basketball.
The Big Cats won a thriller at Liverpool 99-96 to consign the Merseyside club to relegation while the following day a barrage of three-pointers downed Nottingham Hoods 127-95 at Oaklands.
England international Orlan Jackman was in scintillating form for Thomas Baker’s team in both games, finishing with a 37 point, 12 rebound double-double in 40 minutes, adding five assists and four steals against Liverpool before chalking up a 20 point, 20 rebound, 10 assist triple double the following day.
In Liverpool, the Big Cats led for just 52 seconds, but the win for Thomas Baker’s team saw them take a massive step towards safety and probably consigned the home side to relegation. as for the second week running they finished a game with an 11-0 run.
Having conceded 36 first period points and 30 in the second quarter, Baker’s team tightened up at half-time and let in just 15 points in each of the third and fourth stanzas as they moved up to 12th place
Elvisi Dusha and Chuck Duru each added 17 points, with Dusha adding six rebounds, five assists and four steals in 39 minutes while captain Chuck Duru had four boards. Prince Lartey also played 40 minutes as a Leopards side missing James Cummings, Aaron Williams and Toby Gastaldi-Davis, and he added six boards and as many assists to his eight points.
Os Gaizuaskas had seven points and eight boards, while Ray Akpofure and Marius Kaftaniukas came off the bench to add eight and five points respectively.
Leopards trailed 96-88 with 2:29 on the clock, and it was Jackman who launched the game-winning run – sinking a trey before driving to the basket to make it a three-point game with 103 seconds on the clock.
Duru tied the game with exactly a minute left as he drained a triple before Gaizuaskas’ floating jump shot put Leopards ahead with 38 seconds remaining.
Regent-Bascombe’s jump shot rimmed out with Lartey grabbing the rebound before Reiss Haggith fouled Dusha to stop the clock with 18 seconds left.
The Albanian international missed his first shot but the sunk the second to put his side up by three. Gosney and Umweke both had three point efforts, but some excellent defence meant neither were good looks and Jackman grabbed the board after the second shot to seal the win.
Things were a bit less fraught the following day as the Big Cats never looked back after a 35-22 first period and had the game tied up by the end of the third quarter with a 96-70 lead.
Last week’s NBL Division One player-of-the-week Dusha finished with 20 points, seven assists and four rebounds, while Duru had 17 points and five boards in just 15 minutes and Williams had 15 points. Lartey had a 13 point, 11 assist double-double while Gaizuaskas also had 13 points, Kaftaniukas added 12 and Akpofuru 10 as Leopards led from tip-to-buzzer.
Barking will arrive at Oaklands one place below the Big Cats in 12th place with a 4-17 record, and Leopards will look to avenge their 82-74 loss in east London in early January.