Essex Leopards 62–72 Leeds Carnegie

ESSEX Leopards’ dreams of a second Division One play-off title in three years came to an end at the semi-final stage as they lost to Leeds Carnegie on Saturday.

A depleted Big Cats’ side, missing suspended player-coach Robert Youngblood and captain Carl Josey, whose father died just days earlier, never recovered from a poor third period, allowing Carnegie to progress to Sunday’s final where they narrowly defeated Division One champions Reading Rockets.

Howard Crawford led the Big Cats with 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists, with Andre Lockhart and Kris Clark each finishing with 14 points.

Clark added four boards and as many assists despite also getting into foul trouble, but the club’s general manager Dave Ryan insisted it had been a frustrating day.

He said: “Obviously we missed Carl, and our thoughts are with him and his family, because he is an important part of the team.

“Going into a vital game like this without a key player was a massive disadvantage and not having Robert coaching or available to play made a difference as well.

“But it’s been a successful season, finishing runners-up in the league and reaching two semi-finals is a real achievement.

“We’ll have a bit of a rest, re-group and look to do even better next year.”