Basketball: Leopards show old spots to reach cup final

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The Independent Online

The glory days are beckoning the Leopards again. Two years after their fans reformed the former British Basketball League franchise when the owners withdrew their finance, and eight years since they won the National Cup as London Leopards the club are back in the final.

Now the Essex and Herts Leopards and playing in the second-tier English Basketball League, coach Jon Burnell's team swept aside Worcester Wolves 84-51 in Saturday night's semi-finals. In the final on Sunday week at Birmingham's NIA they will face holders Reading Rockets, who defeated City of Sheffield Arrows 96-92.

Leopards will share the bill with their arch-rivals from BBL days, the London Towers, who play Newcastle Eagles in the BBL Cup Final. BBL clubs have been restricted to their own cup competition for the past three years after refusing to comply with England Basketball's eligibility rules on American imports.

Also on the NIA bill, Rhondda Rebels will face Sheffield Hatters in the Women's Cup final, after the Welsh club recovered from a 12-point deficit to beat Nottingham Wildcats 83-61. Missy Lender led the Rebels with 22 points.

In the BBL, Scottish Rocks trailed 42-30 at half-time but beat the Bullets 74-70 in Birmingham, following their 68-63 win at London Towers on Saturday. Rocks are two points ahead of Leicester Riders, 70-63 winners over Sheffield Sharks on Saturday.

Brighton Bears will be without their coach Nick Nurse for at least a month as the American is having an operation on Friday to remove a cyst from his throat. Nurse, 38, will be unable to speak for up to three weeks after the operation.

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