Second period meltdown costly for Leopards

Leopards’ poor season continued as a terrible second period paved the way for an 88-75 home loss against Derby Trailblazers on Saturday.

Thomas Baker’s side outscored the visitors by a point across the other three quarters but that will be little consolation for the Big Cats’ coach as they remain joint bottom of Division One.

Orlan Jackman again led the hosts, finishing with a 26 point, 14 rebound double-double, sitting down for just 26 seconds. Point guard Prince Lartey returned to the side and also put in a shift, adding five steals and three assists to his 13 points in 38 minutes.

Elvisi Dusha and Os Gaizauskas finished with 11 points apiece, but both had difficult shooting nights, while Toby Gastaldi-Davis added eight points.

Johde Campble and Malcolm Smith led a balanced Derby offence with 17 points apiece with the latter adding six rebounds. Sergio Gomez added 16 points for the Blazers as they moved up to fourth in the table, with Trey Wifford finishing with ten points and seven boards.

Leopards started well with scores from Jackman and Dusha giving them the lead before Gomez got Derby off the mark with five straight points.

Three point plays from Gaizauskas and Dusha saw Leopards take a five point lead before five straight Lartey points gave the hosts their biggest lead of the game at 19-13, only for Jake Wesselingh to hit a trey before Smith beat the buzzer to cut the Big Cats’ lead to 19-18 at the first break.

Blake Bowman drained a trey to put the Blazers back ahead before Jackman tied the score at 21 but that was as good as it got for the hosts four straight Bowman point sparled a 9-0 Derby run that gave them a lead they would never lose.

Jackman kept Leopards in touch by anither 9-0 run stretched the lead out to 41-25 with three minutes of the first half remaining.

Gastaldi-Davis broke the run with a triple and also added a three point play, but Leopards never got the lead into single digits in the rest of the half as Smith’s late shot mde it 52-39 in favour of the hosts heading into the locker room.

Gaizauskas drained a three with the opening score of the second half to make it a ten point game, only to see Blazers reply with a 12-1 run to make it 64-43 midway through the third period.

A pair of Lartey triples and one from Dusha cut the lead to ten, but Gomez finished the period with a three-pointer to give his side a 72-60 lead at the final break.

Another Dusha triple made it a nine point game with seven minutes remaining but Derby replied with eight unanswered points and the hosts never got the deficit down to double-digits again before the referees decided to take centre stage with a rash of technical fouls in the final minute.

Leopards return to action on Sunday with a trip to Reading Rockets. The Berkshire go into the weekend in sixth place with 13 wins from 20 games following a 32-point home loss against champions-elect Solent Kestrels on Sunday.

It will be fourth meeting between the teams this season, and Rockets have collected wins against the Big Cats in a pre-season friendly, Division One action and the National Cup quarter-final. They went on to reach the final where they lost heavily against Kestrels.

In contrast, last season saw Leopards beat the side they have faced more times than any other on all four occasions they met, with both league wins and a home victory in the National Trophy being by double figures.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]