Basketball: Reluctant Leopards finish with a flourish

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Richard Taylor

Leicester 108

London Leopards 122

Leicester added basketball for the first time to the British tradition of Boxing Day sport yesterday. But, the English, at least, rarely had a look in as the London Leopards grudgingly travelled to the Granby Halls for the Budweiser League fixture and won.

The Riders' coach Bob Donewald and his Leopards' counterpart, Billy Mims, used their full quota of five Americans each for the first nine minutes. By then Leopards led 36-24 after weathering an opening three-point storm from Leicester.

Mims unsuccessfully applied to the League to postpone the game, provoking a typical response from fellow American Donewald. "Boxing Day isn't even a holiday in the States. Maybe he's a born-again Englishman," he said.

Riders, on the fringes of the play-off quarter-finals, showed their strength and frailties as three of their first five baskets were from long range as they opened a 13-5 lead.

But under the basket Billy Singleton and James Havrilla were out manoeuvred by Leopards' Makebba Perry, Robert Youngblood and John White.

White's three-pointer gave Leopards' their first lead at 27-24, an advantage they extended to 54-34. But the London team hit cruise control too early as Boon, Waldron and Singleton dragged the Riders back to trail 77-72.

Leopards regrouped and the Riders revival was ended by an Englishman. Jason Crum's three-point play inspiring Perry and Eric Burks to close the Leopard's performance with a display of party-time dunks.