ESSEX Leopards will look to reach the National Trophy semi-final for the fourth time in five years when they host Derby Trailblazers at the Brentwood Centre on Sunday afternoon.
The Trophy, which is the league cup for English Basketball’s Division One sides, was the one competition that the Big Cats failed to win last season, going out in the semi-final at Bristol Academy Flyers.
They will therefore be looking to make amends this time around and Sunday’s showdown is a repeat of last season’s play-off final, which Leopards won 95-82 to complete the treble.
However, Derby have shown few signs of the form which saw them finish third last season and win the title in 2010.
Jamie Maudsley’s side are currently 12th in the table with three wins from 11 games.
But the first of those victories came against the Leopards in late November when arguably the Big Cats’ worst performance of the campaign saw them go down 80-65.
Four wins in six games saw Leopards finish second in Group A of the Trophy, while Derby split their six games with three wins and as many losses to finish third in Group B and set up Sunday’s show-down in Brentwood, which tips off at 4pm.
A trip to Bradford Dragons or Hemel Storm awaits the winner of the tie and Leopards coach Robert Youngblood is looking forward to the clash.
“The Trophy is a chance for us to win some silverware, so it’s an important game for us,” said Youngblood, who earlier this week warned his squad they were playing for their futures after a poor result and performance against Medway Park Crusaders last weekend.
“But we know the danger that Trailblazers pose.
“We didn’t go into the game up there with the right attitude and it cost us so we won’t make the saw mistake again.”