Baker looks for Cup success

As  his side prepare to host Nottingham Hoods in the National Cup at the Essex Arena, Leopards’ coach Thomas Baker believes that his team can put their poor league form behind them.
A poor final six  minutes saw the Big Cats outscored 24-7 as they went down 106-88 at Loughborough Riders for a third straight loss on their return to the top flight of English basketball.
“Like the game against Westminster we came out the blocks firing” said Baker. “This time we were able to maintain it for a whole quarter. Unfortunately our defensive issues allowed Loughborough a chance to control the game going into the half.
“Another strong third quarter and beginning of the fourth showed that we are good enough for this level and that we are getting better. In hindsight this game was about end game situations. I should have helped the team more down the stretch to finish stronger than we did.
“I see us improving week in week out, I believe the results will call, we will continue work tirelessly on and off the court in ways in which we must get better. It’s a Cup game next and a chance for us to play freely and enjoy the occasion. ”
Leopards led 31-25 at the first break but were outscored 25-11 in the second period to trail by eight at half-time. They fought their way back into the game and only trailed by a point before the disastrous last six minutes proved to be their downfall.
Chuck Duru led the Big Cats with 20 points and four assists, captain Sam Newman added 16 and Findlay Wood came off the bench to score 15.
Centre Lee Hodges – who along with Luke Mascall-Wright finished with 12 points – also believes there are positives to be taken from Saturday’s loss: “As a team we had a game plan on how we wanted to start the game and in the first quarter we started the game well and executed the plan” he said.
“Things slowed down due to struggling as a unit to rebound and allowing Loughborough to get set in their press which forced us into some bad shots and turnovers.
“Despite this the game remained close going into the final three minutes where we were still within four points. With an injury to big Wes [Flaherty] and with me fouling out it changed the way we had to play and Loughborough closed the game out stronger..
“I think there are lots of positives to come from how we started the game and I think we can continue to grow as a unit, with a bit more luck we could have won the game. However, we have to do better collectively to stop teams scoring and we will address this starting this week.”
Sunday’ s Cup game against the Hoods tips off at 4.30pm and gives the Big Cats a chance for quick revenge against a Nottingham side who won 101-83 when they met in a league game a fortnight ago.
They have had mixed result in their first season in Division One, with three wins and as many losses against top flight teams, while they comfortably beat London Westside to qualify for Sunday’s tie.