Dave Ryan reports…
A dominant overtime period saw Levett Essex Leopards break their three game losing streak with a 94-80 victory against Ipswich on Saturday.
The Big Cats should never have needed the extra period, having led the game for more than 39 of the regulation 40 minutes, and let a 23-point third period lead slip before outscoring the Suffolk side 17-3 in the additional five minutes.
Captain Dougie Bennett led by example with 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds, with Korey Callum adding 15 points and five boards. Jamie Hayes pulled down a massive 19 rebounds to go with his 14 points and Kevin Moyo added 11 points before limping out of the action late in the fourth period with an ankle injury.
A Moyo triple and six points from Bennett helped Leopards open well as they rushed into a 16-4 lead, and a pair of treys from Callum saw them go into the first break with a 24-13 advantage.
Moyo again converted from downtown to open the second quarter before Will Ashby – who was limited to 17 minutes of action due to foul trouble – also hit a trey to put his side ahead by 19.
A couple of 7-0 runs kept the visitors in the game, but a pair of Jerrell Laine baskets helped Leopards go into the locker room with a 45-32 half-time break.
Ashby again drained from the Land of Plenty as Leopards opened the second half on a 12-4 run to lead 59-36, but a timeout from Ipswich coach John Ellis sparked an 11-0 run from the visitors as they fought their way back into the game,
Free throws from Moyo and Callum broke the run as Leopards went into the fourth period with a 65-50 lead, but treys from Winter, Hall and Rai saw the lead shaved to 71-66 heading into the final three minutes of normal time.
Laine’s triple broke the run and he kept the Big Cats in front with a lay-up before Rabi Rai hit a three on the break with 36 seconds remaining to make it a two point game.
Callum hit one of two free-throws as Ipswich fouled to stop the clock and Rai stole the ball from Jamie Rodwell to feed Callum Hawes who sunk a trey with just one second on the clock to send the game into overtime.
After seeing such a large lead obliterated, Leopards could have easily folded in the extra period, but Hayes opened the scoring with a pair of free-throws followed up by threes from Rodwell and Bennett.
A Simbai trey made it a four point game with 1:51 on the clock but that was the last time the visitors troubled the scorer as Shaq Lewis launched the 10-0 game that wrapped up the win.
Leopards make their longest trip of the season on Saturday as they travel to Liverpool. The Merseyside club have made a good start to the season and, after opening the campaign with a win at title favourites Thames Valley Cavaliers, are joint second in the table with a 5-2 record.