Robert Youngblood still fancies Essex Leopards for the title

Echo: Robert Youngblood still fancies Essex Leopards for the title Robert Youngblood still fancies Essex Leopards for the title

COACH Robert Youngblood believes Essex Leopards can still win the England Basketball League Division One title despite enduring a mixed weekend of results.

The Big Cats were beaten 64-61 at Leeds Carnegie on Saturday before beating Bradford Dragons 85-83 24 hours later.

And, despite remaining fourth in the standings, Youngblood is still confident his side can climb back up the table.

“I think we can win it,” said Youngblood, whose side are four points behind leaders Hemel.

“We’ve got the head-to-head over Bradford now and we should get it against Hemel as well.

“We’ll have to go down to Reading and win but I think we’re capable of doing that.

“We just need to cut out some of the errors and stay together as a team because we’ve got a lot of games coming up.”

Both of Leopards’ games in Yorkshire at the weekend were thrilling encounters.

England’s most capped player, Ronnie Baker, was Leopard’s hero at Bradford as he scored a three-pointer with eight seconds left to put his side 81-80 ahead.

Some great defence then forced the Dragons into giving the ball away and Baker was sent to the foul line with 1.2 seconds remaining where he hit the first shot before deliberately missing the second to run the clock down.

Earlier in the game the Big Cats had trailed by as many as 14 points before a trio of Kris Clark’s three-pointers in the third period dragged them back into the game. They still trailed by five points with two minutes remaining before Youngblood and Clark set up the thrilling finish with some good foul shooting.

Having only scored two points at half-time, Clark led all scorers with 24 points, with Howard Crawford adding 12 and Carl Josey ten.

The previous day had seen Leopards fail to close out a win at Leeds Carnegie as the home team scraped home 64-61. The Big Cats failed to grab a defensive rebound three times in the final minute as Carnegie struggled at the foul line.

They had the chance to win the game with five minutes remaining as Clark broke free, but his lay-up failed to connect – although he did appear to be fouled – and Josh McGinn scored on the buzzer to seal the win. Crawford led Leopards with a 22 point, 12 rebound double-double, with Clark adding 16 points and six assists.

Leopards have two matches this weekend and travel to Medway Park Crusaders on Saturday night before hosting Bristol Academy Flyers at the Brentwood Centre the following day.

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