Dave Ryan reports…
Levett Essex Leopards face a key weekend double-header against London Greenhouse Pioneers knowing that home court advantage is on the line.
The Big Cats travel to London on Friday evening before hosting Greenhouse at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday, tip-off 4pm.
A 74-58 loss at Middlesex LTBC on Sunday means that Big Cats are relying on other results to go their way if they are to get a home tie in the play-off quarter-finals.
The capital side will head into the weekend in joint seventh place with a 7-13 record and will need to win one of the games against Leopards to seal a place in the post season.
In common with Leopards, Greenhouse split their two group games in the Patrons Cup and failed to qualify for the semi-finals while in the National Cup they defeated Greenwich Titans 84-72 before being hammered 92-58 at Division Two rivals Westminster Warriors.
Sunday’s loss in Northolt saw an injury hit Leopards’ side struggle to score, converting just 28 percent of their field goal attempts and for the second week in succession they had more shots than the opposition but went down to a double digit defeat.
Captain Dougie Bennett is likely to miss the rest of the season with a back injury, while youngsters Caleb Taberner, Jordan George and Jose Morais were also out of action and they lost Wes Moore after he was clattered driving to the basket in the first half.
The loss of Scottish international Bennett clearly hurt the Big Cats as they struggled offensively all game.
Jerrell Layne led the visitors’ scoring with 15 points off 22 shots, adding five rebounds. Jamie Rodwell had arguably this best game since signing for the Big Cats last season, finishing with 13 points and six boards. Shaq Lewis again provided a spark off the bench, with 13 points and three rebounds.
Layne opened the scoring with a trey, and the Big Cats started well as Moore gave them a 14-10 lead at the midway stage of the first period.
But that proved to be the last time they troubled the scorer for more than four minutes as they went into the first break trailing 21-16.
A score from Rodwell followed by a triple and a lay-up from Lewis tied the score at 23 with just over three second period minutes gone.
That proved to be as good as it got for the visitors as Krasauskas scored from downtown, and they went into the locker room 39-30 down.
Layne converted a lay-up to make it a five point game midway through the third period but despite a three-point Lewis play, the Big Cats went into the final break with a 53-42 deficit.
Lewis hit a trey to make cut the hosts’ lead to eight with five minutes remaining, but that was as close as Leopards came and the Big Cats will hope that some of their injured players can return for the Greenhouse games.