Basketball: White rampant as Leopards race on

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The Independent Online
THE LEOPARDS outran their capital rivals, the Towers, over the final three minutes in their Budweiser League clash at London Arena last night to make a decisive move towards retaining their championship title with a 93-83 win.

Leopards scored 12 of the game's last 14 points to square their League series 1-1. With last night's defeat being Towers' eighth of the season, when the teams meet again on 15 March it may be only Birmingham Bullets and Sheffield Sharks who are challenging the Leopards for the title.

Birmingham defeated Crystal Palace 95-83 at the NEC last night to join the Leopards on 20 wins from 25 games, ahead of the Sharks on 19 wins from 25. Palace were also victims this weekend of Sheffield, who won 95- 78 at the National Sports Centre on Saturday.

The Leopards' American, John White, produced an unstoppable first-half performance against Towers, scoring 27 points, 21 of them in the second quarter and five fromthree-pointers. His 37-point haul led all scorers, ahead of his team-mates Eric Burks, 24, and Makeeba Perry, who had 12 points and 16 rebounds. Keith Robinson, with 20, top-scored for the Towers, who led for the last time in the game at 32-30.

The Thames Valley Tigers coach, Paul James, hopes his team have finally shaken off their National Cup final hangover after Saturday's 94-86 victory at Leicester put them on the fringe of the championship race. After beating Leicester in the final one month ago, they proceeded to lose to Leopards and Birmingham within a week.

James said: "Suddenly everyone was too satisfied, as if now they had won something they could relax. But we were only halfway through the season. After the Birmingham defeat I set a target of winning at least 10 of the next 12 games and now we are halfway there."