ESSEX Leopards were made to fight all the way before recording two home victories at the weekend, beating Medway Park 90-84 on Saturday and Team Northumbria 83-80 in overtime the following day.
On Saturday Howard Crawford led all scorers with a massive 25 point, 17 rebound double-double, adding three assists in 39 minutes of action.
Kris Clark finished with 22 points and five assists, with Andre Lockhart adding 17 points and six assists.
Carl Josey and Courtney Van Beest scored ten apiece.
Youngblood’s team trailed 30-20 at the first break and 48-40 at half-time and did not take the lead until midway through the third period when Clark scored back-to-back three-pointers.
Crusaders’ coach Lloyd Gardner – former player and assistant coach at Leopards – was ejected four minutes into the final period, and the Big Cats wrapped things up at the foul line.
Clearly Leopards do not do things the easy way, and they trailed by 20 points with six minutes of regulation time remaining against Northumbria before Andre Lockhart bagged seven points in 79 seconds to send the game into overtime.
The visitors scored the first five points in overtime, before Lockhart sparked an 8-0 run to give Leopards their first lead of the game.
Jack Thompson levelled the score with a three-pointer, but it was clearly Lockhart’s night as he drained a scored with six seconds remaining to give Leopards the win.
But victory came at a cost as coach Robert Youngblood was ejected for arguing about a foul call on Van Beest and could miss the semi-final and final of the play-offs if Leopards qualify.
The Big Cats are now second in Division One of the England Basketball League and just two points behind Reading with two games left.