ESSEX Leopards made it five wins on the bounce as they dominated the second half to run out 82-53 winners against Medway Park Crusaders on Saturday.
The victory against a Kent side containing four former Leopards proved to be straightforward for Robert Youngblood’s side as they led for all but the opening couple of minutes.
Howard Crawford led the Big Cats for the fourth straight game with 20 points while Carl Josey added 12 as Youngblood rested his starting players from late in the third period.
The rest of the points were evenly shared around, with Iown Nickson having a season-high eight, as all 12 players saw at least ten minutes of action.
Crusaders’ Daniel Ogunseye scored either side of a Kris Clark three point play to give the home side a 4-3 lead, but seven Crawford points and a three pointer from Ish Fontaine helped Leopards head into the first break with a 14-13 lead.
Fontaine buried a three to open the second period and, with Shaun Durant adding five points and Josey four, the Big Cats gradually extended their lead to go into the locker room 40-32 ahead.
Crusaders’ coach Luis Guil did not help his side’s cause as picked up a technical foul after Josey had beaten the shot clock with a long two.
Andre Lockhart sunk both foul shots and Courtney Van Beest then scored from inbound to complete a six point offence.
The third quarter proved to be the clincher for the visitors as they outscored Crusaders 25-11 with Josey hitting back-to-back threes and Crawford adding another seven points to his tally.
Clark’s basket with two minutes of the period remaining proved to be the last time any of the starting five saw any action, and a score from George Naiwo sent them into the final break 65-42 ahead.
Van Beest made it a 26 point game early in the fourth period and back-to-back three pointers from Nickson kept Leopards comfortably ahead before the Welsh international wrapped Leopards’ 13th league win of the season up.
Third placed Leopards now head to Reading Rockets, who are in second, this Saturday before they host fifth placed Manchester Magic at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday.