Brixton Topcats v Leicester Warriors: 70-71
On Sunday, a depleted Topcats returned to Brixton Recreation Centre to face the Leicester Warriors.
Centre Tom Adorian had failed to recover from a calf injury and did not play for the third game running, Arturo Noha was unable to suit up due to an ankle injury picked up the day before against Leeds and to add to the injury list Karolis Petkus had to limp off in the third quarter with a suspected broken foot. Add Marcus Knight’s departure from the club to take up employment in Germany, the Topcats were missing four of their regular starting line up in this crucial league fixture.
Samuel Toluwase picked up much of the scoring load with a game high 29 points, and it was Toluwase who did the early scoring for Brixton. However, at the other end Leicester seemed to be able to score at will, with American Eugene Pettway leading the way with Brixton’s usually tough defence offering little resistance.
At the end of the first period Leicester held a 25-18 lead. Brixton remained subdued throughout most the second period, although Papa Demba Kasse began to pick up some points in the paint on his way to an impressive 12 point and 15 rebound double-double. Leicester remained effective offensively with Delaney Wells and Emile Hopkins picking up their scoring load.
The highlight of the half was undoubtedly another ‘and one’ breakaway dunk from Toluwase. At the half, Leicester led by 45-36.
Coach Powlesland’s half time brief had an immediate impact on his team as they began to edge their way back into the contest with some effective zone pressure. Baskets from Umekwe and Kasse helped swing the momentum – but more importantly a renewed defensive effort helped Brixton reduce the arrears to just 4 points 56-60 at the end of the 3rd.
The 4th quarter was a tense and tight affair with both sides sacrificing some offensive fluency in exchange for defensive grit. Brixton continued to claw their way back with Avelino Antonio providing a welcome spark off the bench and driving to basket on his way to 12 points personal.
An important tip-in from Umekwe brought Brixton within 1 with less than 3 minutes to go. The teams exchanged baskets until Brixton found themselves in possession with 12 seconds to go in the game. Antonio drove, but was fouled on the floor and the Topcats had an inbounds play with a little over 6 seconds to play.
Tough Warriors defence led to a missed Kasse jump shot, but Lithuanian guard Andrius Vaitiekus was able to secure the rebound and was immediately fouled.
With Leicester now in the penalty Vatiekus went to the line for two shots with 0.8 seconds on the clock, needing both for a victory or one to send the game into overtime. Vaitiekus missed both efforts allowing Leicester to hang on to a hard fought one-point win 71-70.
Powlesland said: “to lose in that fashion that is heart breaking, we did so well to come back in that game and give ourselves a chance. It took time for the team to adjust to a new offensive chemistry without Noha, Adorian & Knight to take the shots and losing Petkus during the game. I got great games from Avelino and Umekwe off the bench to support big games from Toluwase and Kasse. We let them score too easily in the first half; we shot too many three pointers and couldn’t get the victory from the line when it mattered. We will have to re group, assess our injuries and came back stronger next week against London Leopards on Sunday.”
The split weekend means Topcats remain in 7th place in the league with a record of 7 wins and 5 losses.
Top scorers for the Topcats were Toluwase 29pts, Kasse 12 pts (+15 Rebounds), and Avelino 12 pts. Leicester were led by Wells 16 pts, Powell 16 pts and Pettway 13 pts.
Thanks to Brixton Topcats for this match report
The Topcats’ next home game is against Bradford Dragons on February 12th at 4pm at Brixton Recreation Centre