Ish Fontaine: Essex Leopards can clip Newcastle Eagles’ wings

First published in Sport by

ISH Fontaine believes Essex Leopards can cause an upset when they take on British basketball giants Newcastle Eagles in the Trophy this weekend.

The Eagles have been the dominant force in British basketball for the last decade and are currently fourth in the British Basketball League (BBL) – the country’s top division.

But Fontaine is confident the Big Cats – who play in the second tier English Basketball League (EBL) – could spring a surprise when the two teams meet at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday.

“Newcastle have been the main team in the past 10 years so this is going to be a tough clash but for me an upset is definitely possible,” said Fontaine.

“It’s going to be tough because in our league you play a lot of teams with shallow benches and we dominate a lot of teams inside. Newcastle however have a great defensive system and players the same height in every position.

“They also have a great bench players, many of whom who were in the starting five for their former clubs last season, so we know we’re in for a hard test.”

However, many of the Leopards’ players have enjoyed their previous encounters against the Eagles.

And Fontaine feels that will also stand them in good stead on Sunday.

“Howard Crawford scored 30 points against the Eagles when he was an MK Lion and Carl (Josey) had a great game against them also,” said the guard.

“In my years of being an MK Lion we only beat them once and that’s when Kris Clark was on the team, so for me we can beat them and if we could it would be great for the organisation.”

Fontaine feels the Leopards are the closest team to a top tier side currently playing in their league. And he would love to see them make the step up.

“I’ve heard through the grapevine that the Leopards are trying to become a BBL franchise and they do seem to build elite teams every year with great players so it must be an aim,” said Fontaine.

“I truly can’t say how far we are away from being a BBL calibre team, but all our starting five have played in the top league so it wouldn’t be anything new for them.”

Leopards go into the game full of confidence after beating Bristol Academy Flyers 78-73 to move up to third in the table. Skipper Carl Josey led the way with 26 points and Fontaine was thrilled to have come out on top.

“Bristol was an important game so it was great to win,” said Fontaine.

“The Flyers came out all guns blazing and jumped ahead but then we got shouted at by coach and ended up playing a great second half “Carl went berserk from the three-point line and Howard, Courtney (Van Beest) and Kris played a great game too.

“Hopefully it can be the same this weekend.”

Sunday’s match tips off at 4pm.

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