ESSEX Leopards sealed home court advantage in the play-off quarter finals with a 77-70 win against Leeds Carnegie.
A strong fourth period at the Brentwood Centre saw the Big Cats pick up their ninth win in ten games to seal a place in the top four of English Basketball League’s top division.
The Big Cats were down by four points a minute into the fourth period before a 12-2 run put the hosts in charge and they never trailed again.
Andre Lockhart led Leopards’ scoring for the first time since joining six weeks ago, adding seven assists to his 20 points.
Kris Clark finished with 16 points, with Carl Josey adding 15 points and six rebounds.
Howard Crawford suffered with foul trouble for most of game but added seven boards to his 13 points.
Shaun Durant, who also had foul trouble, opened the scoring and Leopards quickly rushed into a 7-2 lead before Clark sent them into the first break with a 17-14 lead.
Crawford made it a five-point game with the opening basket of the second period, and although former Leopard Rowell Graham gave his side a brief lead, Josey scored a three-pointer to send Leopards into the locker room leading 32-28.
Josey gave his side a six-point lead but that quickly evaporated as Graham capped a 9-0 run to put Leeds 37-34 ahead and they led by as many as seven before a late rally saw Josey cut the deficit to 52-51 with another three-pointer.
Jack Stannard put Leeds ahead by four with a three-pointer of his own but Crawford’s dunk energised his team, and back-to-back Clark baskets gave the home side a lead they would never lose.
Graham made it a one-point game with a minute remaining, but Courtney Van Beest answered at the other end before Clark and Crawford wrapped the win up at the foul line.