Comeback in vain for Big Cats

A stunning fourth period wasn’t quite enough as the new-look Leopards went down 99-93 at neighbours Hemel Storm, on Saturday.
The Big Cats blitzed the home side with a 38-18 final period and got the deficit down to just five in the final minute before title-chasing Storm held on the for the win.
It was a very different Leopards’ line-up that started the game at a packed Hemel Leisure Centre with Elvishi Dusha and Osvaldas Gaizauskas making their debut alongside recent signings Orlan Jackman, Prince Larty and Teni Mongo.
Albanian international Dusha certainly made an immediate impact, leading the Big Cats with 23 points, seven assists and three rebounds, while Gaizauskas finished with 15 points and nine boards. Larty had a 15 point, ten assist double-double, adding five rebonds and three steals, Jackman had 11 points and 12 rebounds, while the other debutant Aaron Williams had ten points and Ray Akpofure had eight points and five bounds in just eight minutes.
Hemel were led by a 23 point, 11 rebound double from Greg Polson while fellow American Mike Williams had 20 points, five assists and four rebounds. Former Leopard Bode Adeluola finished 17 points and 11 assist, veteran Walid Mumuni added 11 points with decent addition Jordan Jackson chipping in with ten points.
An even start saw Lithuanian forward Gaizauskas open his Leopards’ account with a jump shot to lead 7-6 after three minutes and Lartey’s triple with four first period minutes remaining put his side 14-13 ahead
But that proved to be the last time the Big Cats led as Adeluola launched an 8-0 run to send Storm into the first break leading 22-14.
That advantage was quickly cut as Leopards opened the second quarter with triples from Dusha and Lartey, only for Storm to hit five unanswered points to regain the initiative. Lartey broke the run but triples from Mumuni and Williams saw the lead balloon 35-22 at the five minutes mark, and despite Dusha scoring the final basket of the half the Big Cats went into the locker room trailing 44-33.
It certainly didn’t get any better for the visitors with only Jackman troubling the scorer as Storm opened the second half with a 10-2 run, and although the two Williams exchanged baskets, Hemel’s lead was up to 20 after four minutes.
Mike Williams made it a 25 point game with six minutes gone and despite Akpofure’s lay-up to close the period, Hemel led 81-55 at the final break.
Dusha’s three-point play opened the fourth period, and Akpofure took the deficit under 20 with a lay-up after 90 seconds.
Former Leopards Will Ashby and Sam Newman combined for seven points to take the lead back out to 22 after four minutes before captain Chuck Duru launched a 13-3 run capped by a Dush triple to make it 91-77 with 2:39 on the clock.
Adeluola broke the run but Dusha’s triple made it an eight-point game with 70 seconds remaining. After Leopards had forced a 24 second violation, a series of fouls on both teams followed before Adeuola made it 97-88 with 27 seconds remaining.
Larty sunk Leopards tenth trey of the game to cut the lead to six with 20 seconds on the clock and after a single Newman free-throw Aaron Williams made it a five point game at the foul line, but that was as close as they got as Storm closed out the win.

The Essex Basketball Classic 2018