Leopards’ coach Thomas Baker couldn’t hide his delight after his side boosted their survival hopes with an 81-77 victory against Westminster Warriors, on Saturday.
“It is great to finally pick up another win. We have been pushing for this for a while now and we have been close in some games but it feels great to get over the line” said Baker after the victory at Oaklands..
The Big Cats added England international Orland Jackman late last week, and Baker acknowledged the contribution his new signing made: “The addition of Orlan makes a massive difference, he composed us in some critical moments and I think that lead to some great performances from James, Chuck, Prince, Toby, Teni and Orlan himself.
“I’m excited to see where we go from here. There’s still a long way to go, we must take things one game at a time.”
Jackman had an impressive debut as he played all 40 minutes and finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in he front of the Big Cats biggest crowd of the season at Oaklands.
While England international Jackman’s decision to has grabbed the headlines in British basketball, it was Oaklands junior Tony Gastaldi-Davies who coolly stepped up sink the two free-throws that sealed the Big Cats’ second league victory of the campaign.
Thomas Baker’s side were led by captain Chuck Duru’s 17 points and four rebounds, while Prince Lartey had 13 points and six assists. Gastaldi-Davies finished with 11 points and four rebounds, while James Cummings also had 11 points, adding eight boards and three assists, and Teni Mongo added ten points
Triples from Ray Akpofure, Jackman and Duru helped send the hosts into the first break with a 26-19 lead but Warriors closed out the second quarter strongly to cut the Big Cats’ advantage to 44-43 going into the locker room.
Warriors continued to control the game, taking an early in the second half and it took six straight Lartey points to cut the visitors’ lead to 62-58 at the final break.
Gastaldi-Davies sunk a triple to open the last stanza but it wasn’t until the 7:32 mark that they home side regained the lead as Cummings drove to the basket and converted. Another trey from Gastaldi-Davies levelled the score at 68, and triples from Duru and Gastaldi-Davies saw Leopards open a 75-70 lead with three minutes on the clock.
Johnson and Jackman exchanged baskets before a single Hitchman free-throw made it a four point game heading into the final minute. Cummings split a pair at the line before Johnson cut the lead to three with 30 seconds left.
Akpofure sent Khalil to the foul line where he made it a one-point game before Warriors fouled Larty with ten second on the clock. The Londoner hit his first free-throw before the second one only for Akpofure to grab the rebound and pass to Gastaldi-Davies. The youngster was fouled and coolly sunk both free-throws to seal the win..
Leopards have to wait until Feb 1 to return to action when they travel to Hemel Storm.