Leopards season opens with heavy defeat at Solent

Solent Kestrels 122 – 61 Essex & Herts Leopards

Essex & Herts Leopards’ coach Thomas Baker is looking for a big improvement as his side travels to Loughborough on Saturday.

The Big Cats’ Division One season opened with a heavy defeat as they went down 122-61 at Solent Kestrels and Baker knows his side need to play much better this weekend:

“It certainly goes down as one of the toughest losses I have had as coach and the team felt it too” he said.

The home side opened with an 8-0 run and never looked back as they dominated from tip to buzzer, going into the first break 33-19 and then effectively ending the game as a contest with a 29-19 second period to lead 62-38 at half-time.

Things didn’t get any better for the Big Cats in the second half as they lead grew to 91-52 at the final break and the fourth quarter saw them outscored 31-9, adding only a single point in the last five minutes.

Hafeez Adbul led Leopards with 17 of his 24 points coming in the first half, adding five boards and three assists. Jerelle Okoro was the only other Big Cat in double figures, finishing with ten points while Prince Lartey adding eight as Leopards suffered the biggest defeat in club history.

The home side crushed Baker’s team on the boards as they were outrebounded 59-32 and shot just 26 percent from the floor.

Solent’s American pair Ian Smith and Travis Charles finished with 26 points apiece, with the latter adding nine rebounds.

“It wasn’t easy starting the campaign against last season’s league and play-off champions, but we definitely felt we should have performed better than we did,” said Baker.

“We must make sure we regroup quickly and get ready for a competitive game next weekend against a good Loughborough side.

“It is important this season we don’t get too high with the highs and too low with the lows, this is a moment for us to learn from and improve.”

2017/18 Division One champions Loughborough finished third last season and won the National Cup, but Leopards produced arguably their best performance under Baker when the sides met in Colchester last season.

The Big Cats hit an incredible 20 three-pointers with just 32 shots as they ran out 108-76 winners  in what was probably the best shooting performance in the club’s 15-year history.

In contrast, the game between the sides in the Midlands saw the Riders win 106-88.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]