Leopards fall to champions

A great first half performance against an unbeaten Solent side wasn’t enough to prevent Leopards losing 113-79 against league champions Solent Kestrels at a packed Brentwood Centre, on Sunday.
Against a side who defeated British League champions London Lions the previous day and have won all 18 games this season, Leopards kept the big crowd on the edge of their seats in the first half before fading after the break.
The Big Cats had lost 122-61 at Solent on the opening day of the season but with Prince Lartey having his best performance of the season – finishing with 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds – they gave Kestrels one of their toughest tests of the season.
Captain Chuck Duru finished with 14 points and five rebounds while Jerrelle Okoro battled with foul trouble all game – appearing to be called for a foul committed by a different player at one stage – to add 11 points in 16 minutes. Another Oaklands youngster, Ahmed Ketiri, had his best game in a Leopards’ vest to add five rebounds to his ten points.
Lartey sunk a trey to open the scoring, but nine Luke Busumbru points in a 14-4 run helped Solent lead 31-23 at the first break despite a pair of Toby Gastaldi-Davies triples
But the second quarter saw Leopards play some of their best basketball of the season as an early 6-0 run thanks to Teni Mongo and Lartey made it a four point game. Treys from Lartey, Okoro, Ketiri and Duru saw cut Kestrels’ lead to a single point on several occasions, only for Solent to answer each time. A lay-up from Lartey cut the deficit to one point again before Ian Smith hit a pair at the foul line to give his side a 54-51 lead going into the locker room.
It was as still a one-point game following Ketiri’s put-back three minutes into the second half, but with Okoro leaving the game following an offensive foul, Kestrels went on a 24-6 run to close out the quarter with an 82-63 lead and effectively wrap up the win.
Jonathan Lashley led Solent with a 25 point, 14 rebound double-double, adding four assists, while Busumbru finished with a season-high 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds. American pair Smith and Travis Charles each added eight rebounds to their 21 and 20 points respectively while Elliott Dadds sunk six triples on the way to an 18 point, seven rebound night.
The game was won on the boards, with Solent out-rebounding the home side 59-35