Leopards fans arriving at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday afternoon for the "derby game" were probably not filled with optimism. Recent performances at Chester and Birmingham had been below par and the record book showed that Towers had won the last five meetings between the two old rivals, the most recent being an overtime defeat in the National Cup earlier this season.

However when it comes to local derbies the form book can be thrown out of the window, and so it proved on Sunday.

The Leopards rose to the challenge,established a lead, weathered the Towers mini-revivals and got the victory that meant so much more to the hard-core Leopard supporters than just two league points.

Although the Leopards struggled with early fouls again their two starting post players Marshall Sanders and David Fisher, Coach Taylor rotated his bench superbly and got valuable minutes from Martin Yabsley and a telling contribution from David Attewell.

By mid way in the first quarter the Leopards pulled ahead 15-10 and although the Towers rallied the Kool Kats led 21-19 at the end of the period.

The Towers went ahead momentarily at the start of the second quarter through their " go to" player Terrell Myers but Rod Brown playing with real court authority tied the game at 26-26 following a three point shot and the Leopards didn't look back.

Brown executed an "and 1" play after stealing the ball from the Towers point guard Shaheen Holloway, but after a Kendrick Warren basket for the visitors, the next two plays saw both Sly McIntosh and Yorick Williams hit three point shots and the Leopards found themselves ahead 34-28.

Not surprisingly Towers called a time out but it failed to stem the flow of points as Fisher and Rod Brown again capitalised on poor Towers defence and by half time Leopards led 42-33.

Mid way through the third period the Towers mounted a surge and reduced Leopards lead to just four points but once again the Leopard three point shooters retaliated as Sly McIntosh hit two "threes" from the top of the key and Yorick Williams hit another long range effort to give the Essex side a 62-51lead.

In the final quarter the Leopards began to hurry their offences and the Towers responded cutting the Leopards lead to just two points with 1.54 minutes remaining.

With defence dominating and the match officials "letting the players play" it would all come down to final offences.

The Towers desparately fouling to stop the clock eventually sent Sly McIntosh to the foul line. Leopards at that stage led 75-73, if McIntosh fired home both shots the game would be effectively over; however when his first shot rimmed out, the Leopards fans feared the worse.

The Leopards shooting guard made his second effort.

Published Wednesday, January 8, 2003

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