ESSEX Leopards suffered mixed fortunes at the weekend.
The Big Cats started their Division One season with an empathic 102-83 win at Worthing Thunder on Saturday night.
But they followed that up with a shock 73-70 defeat to London Lituanica at the Brentwood Centre the following day in the third round of the National Cup.
Competition rules state that top flight teams may only play one American against lower division teams, meaning that guard Simon Cummings was left out of the side, and against a side packed with quality Lithuanian players, Leopards found the going tough.
The home side led by as many as six points with three minutes of the third period remaining, but two Sidagas free-throws with 11.3 seconds remaining gave the visitors a three point lead.
And, after a time-out, Leopards were unable to get the ball to Carl Josey, meaning player coach Robert Youngblood ended up taking a hail-mary three pointer which failed to connect.
Taner Adu led the Leopards’ scoring with 25 points while Josey had another double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Youngblood also had 12 boards to go with his eight points, while Greg Hernandez finished with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists.
However, they had been no such problems for Leopards the previous evening. Josey produced a superb first half performance to lead the Big Cats to a 102-83 victory at Worthing Thunder as his side ended the first night of action on top of the table.
Josey was perfect in the first half as he hit five three-pointers, three shots from inside the arc, and six free-throws on his way to 27 points at the break.
But the former MK Lion did not add to his tally in the second half, missing both shots he took, as coach Youngblood restricted him to eight minutes of action in preparation for Sunday's National Cup.
However, he added a total of seven rebounds and three steals to his impressive stat line. Cummings and Adu picked up the slack in the second half to finish with 17 points apiece, with Lawrence Brown adding 10 points and six boards.
Leopards are back in action on Sunday when they host Bradford Dragons at the Basildon Sporting Village, tip off 4pm.