Leopards win Liverpool thriller

Leopards fought back from a 22-point half-time deficit to collect a second straight narrow victory as they returned from Liverpool with a 99-96 victory.

The Big Cats led for just 52 seconds, but the win for Thomas Baker’s team saw them take a massive step towards safety and probably consigned the home side to relegation. as for the second week running they finished a game with an 11-0 run.

Having conceded 36 first period points and 30 in the second quarter, Baker’s team tightened up at half-time and let in just 15 points in each of the third and fourth stanzas as they moved up to 12th place.

England international Orlan Jackman did much of the damage for the visitors, finishing with a 37 point, 12 rebound double-double in 40 minutes, adding five assists and four steals. Elvisi Dusha and Chuck Duru each added 17 points, with Dusha adding six rebounds, five assists and four steals in 39 minutes while captain Duru had four boards. Prince Lartey also played 40 minutes as a Leopards side missing James Cummings, Aaron Williams and Toby Gastaldi-Davis, and he added six boards and as many assists to his eight points. Os Gaizuaskas had seven points and eight boards, while Ray Akpofure and Marius Kaftaniukas came off the bench to add eight and five points respectively.

For Liverpool, Tyme Regent-Bascombe poured in 26 points in the first half on the way to a 32 point, ten rebound double-double, adding three assists. Luke Gosney also finished with a double-double with 24 points, ten boards and five assists. Kaphel Ulett-Waul and Uche Umweke each had 14 points, with the former adding nine assists and five rebounds while the latter had nine rebounds.

Lartey opened the scoring with a layup but Leopards held the lead for only 14 seconds and Umweke hit the hosts’ first of 17 three-pointers to give them an 8-2 lead with just over two minutes gone. Dusha and Lartey made it a one point game with four minutes gone but Regent-Bascombe and Reis Haggith both scored from the Land of Plenty and although Kaftaniukas also scored from downtown, the Big Cats trailed 36-20 at the first break.

Although Dusha opened the second period scoring, triples from Regent-Bascombe and Ellis Haggith saw Liverpool stretch the lead. Duru and Jackman both hit threes to keep Leopards in touch and Duru hit back-to-back baskets as Liverpool were kept scoreless for three minutes as the lead was cut to 47-36 at the five minute mark.

That was as good as it got for the visitors in the first half and Liverpool closed strongly with Regent-Bascombe sending the hosts into the locker room with a 66-45 lead.

Back-to-back Jackman scores early in the second half an Dusha’s triple cut the deficit to 17 and give straight Jackman points made it 78-67 with four minutes left in the third period. Jackman hit another trey to make it a single digit game with 100 seconds left in the quarter and his lay-up shaved the lead to seven before a pair of Dusha free-throws cut Liverpool’s lead to 81-76 at the final break with the visitors having won the period 31-15.

Akpofure hit his second triple of the game to make it a 81-79 at the start of the fourth period, only to see Ulett-Waul reply from downtown. Dusha and Ulett-Waul exchanged threes, and despite a pair of Jackman free-throws the hosts still led by five at the five minute mark.

Umweke put his side up by seven as the game seemed to be slipping away from Leopards before Kaftaniukas converted a pair at the foul line. Another Umweke triple made it 96-88 with 2:29 on the clock. It was Jackman who launched the game-winning run, Jackman sinking a trey before driving to the basket to make it a three-point game with 103 seconds on the clock.

Duru tied the game with exactly a minute left as he drained a triple before Gaizuaskas’ floating jump shot put Leopards ahead with 38 seconds remaining. Regent-Bascombe’s jump shot rimmed out with Lartey grabbing the rebound before Reiss Haggith fouled Dusha to stop the clock with 18 seconds left.

The Albanian international missed his first shot but the sunk the second to put his side up by three. Gosney and Umweke both had three point efforts, but some excellent defence meant neither were good looks and Jackman grabbed the board after the second shot to seal the win.