Shaq on fire as Leopards win thriller

Shaq Lewis led the way with 29 points as Levett Essex Leopards made it three straight wins with a hard-fought 94-89 victory against Middlesex LTBC, on Sunday.
A big crowd at the Brentwood Centre saw Lewis have the best game of his Leopards’ career as the Big Cats wrapped up their 2017 fixtures with a key victory which keeps them in the promotion race.
Lewis added seven rebounds in just 22 minutes, while Will Ashby finished with 22 points, eight assists and four boards in 38 minutes of action. Kevin Moyo had a season-high 17 points with captain Dougie Bennett adding 16 points, with both players also dishing out four assists.
In a high-tempo and physical game, Leopards held off a late comeback from a visiting side who had rebuilt following recent problems which saw them forfeit two games, adding American Jamal Felix who led their scoring with 22 points in as many minutes, adding seven rebounds and three assists.
Ultimately, Leopards’ ability on the fast break proved key for them as the outscored the visitors 37-12 in that category.
Bennett and Ashby both hit treys before Moyo converted a three-point play as the Big Cats rushed into an early 10-2 lead.
But the visitors fought back to take their first lead with two minutes remaining following a Talijunas free throw before a trey from Ashby and scores from Caleb Taberner and Lewis gave the Big Cats a 29-26 lead at the first break.
Middlesex opened the second period with six straight points before Lewis tied things with a trey, and the quarter proved to be a battle of attrition.
The hosts looked set for a comfortable half time lead as they were 50-45 ahead going into the final 30 seconds, but they managed to turn the ball over twice to allow Simas to convert a pair of lay-ups to cut the Big Cats’ lead to a point heading into the locker room.
Ashby drained from the Land of Plenty to open the second half but the visitors led for much of the third period and Felix put them 70-65 heading into the final three minutes before Lewis converted another dunk and hit a lay-up before Ashby tied thing at 70 with a single free-throw going into the final break.
Lewis continued to be a one-man wrecking crew as he hit Leopards’ first 11 points of the fourth quarter as they opened an 81-73 lead at the midway stage of the period.
A trey from Bennett made a it a 12-point lead going into the final three minutes before Felix hit back-to-back triples before making it a five point game with 70 seconds remaining.
But, predictably it was Lewis who broke the run before Rudik and Szatkowski scored to make it 90-89 with 35 seconds on the clock.
But Szatkowski was called for an unsportsmanlike foul as he attempted to dispossess Moyo, and the young point guard hit both free-throws before sinking a jump shot to seal the win.