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Vernon: A perfect end to our season
VERNON Teel rounded off an incredible spell for the Leopards by inspiring them to victory in the end of season Division One play-offs in Manchester at the weekend.
Teel, who had already been voted the English Basketball League player of the year, was named most valuable player in the final as Leopards beat the Derby Trailblazers 95-62.
And the victory made it a trio of trophies for the Basildon-based Leopards who also won the league and national cup.
“It’s been a great season and this was the perfect way for it to end,” said Teel, who finished with 32 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists in the final.
“Leopards hadn’t been successful in the past few years as far as winning cups, leagues and play-offs was concerned, so I took it as a challenge and inspired my team-mates to try to change that.
“They have been great all year and I would like to thank each and every one of them for allowing me to be their leader on the court because this has been a great first professional year for me.”
But Teel also felt Leopards had been forced to work hard to secure their latest triumph.
They fought back from going behind to beat Leicester.
And Teel felt that was only possible due to Leopards’ desire.
“We have great commitment and thanks to coach Dejan we are always prepared for every game we play,” said Teel.
“Winning the treble is a huge team accomplishment.
“We lost just once in 2012 and that just shows how focused and prepared we were.”
The play-off victory completed Leopards’ most successful ever season and Teel was again well supported by fellow American Ousman Krubally in the final as he had another stand-out game with a 34 point, 17 rebound double-double.
Trailblazers started strongly with a 7-0 run but Leopards hit back to lead 20-16 at the end of the first period.
A Lukas Volskis three midway through the second period extended the Leopards’ lead to 10 but Derby’s Martyn Gayle went on a streak of his own, scoring two threes in 15 seconds.
He knocked down a third shortly after making it a five point game and forced a Leopards timeout.
The margin stayed the same at half-time but Leopards piled on the defensive pressure in the third and led 70-55 at the end of the third period.
A Rishi Kakad floater and a pair of free throws made a dent in Leopards’ lead at 77-71 but that was as close as Derby would come as the lead grew back to double digits by the end of the game.
London stretched out to a 73-55 lead midway through the fourth and Leicester looked to be done.
But three unanswered triples by Leicester’s Dawaun Wells cut it to single digits until Leopards called a time out with three minutes remaining and never looked back as they secured yet more silverware.