Play-off woe for Big Cats

A poor shooting night cost Levett Essex Leopards as they went down 84-80 against Westminster Warriors in the NBL Division Two play-offs, on Saturday.
A good crowd at the Brentwoood Centre saw the Big Cats’ season end in disappointment despite fighting back a 14-point first period deficit.
Thomas Baker’s side’s love affair with the three-point shot proved to be their undoing as they hit just eight of their 37 shots from behind the arc, and they also missed 13 of their 27 foul shots as they came up short down the stretch.
Seven unanswered points saw the home side saw them tie the game with 1:26 on the clock but their inability to control Warriors’ player coach Jon Johnson – who finished with 41 points, ten rebounds and five assists – proved to be their undoing as the visitors finished strongly to win the game.
With captain Dougie Bennett still out with a back injury, fellow Brentwood-based guard Will Ashby led the way for the hosts 23 points in 26 minutes of action.
Shaq Lewis finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, with youngster Jordan George adding 14 points and five boards. Korry Callum struggled with his shot all game but ended the game with 12 points and as many rebounds.
Ashby hit a trey to open the game and hit a pair at the foul line to keep Leopards ahead, but that was as good as it got in the first period as Johnson hit seven straight points in a 10-0 run and despite back-to-back scores from Antonio Deogratius the hosts trailed 25-13 at the first break.
With George hitting a pair of treys and both Callum and Jerrell Layne also scoring from the Land of Plenty Leopards slowly edged their way back into the game but after Callum was fouled shooting a triple on the buzzer he missed all three free-throws as the Big Cats went into the locker room trailing 44-37 at half-time.
An and-one from Ashby pulled Leopards within five early in the second half, and the score remained around that mark before five straight Callum points made it a two point game, and a single Lewis’ free-throw sent the Big Cats into the final break trailing 59-56.
Johnson got loose again as he hit five points a 7-0 Westminster run to restored Warriors’ lead to ten points as they opened the fourth period strongly.
But four points and five from George saw Leopards tie the score heading into the final minute, before Johnson launched the decisive run for the visitors and despite a trey from Ashby, they closed out the win and a trip to Nottingham in the semi-final.