After back-to-back victories propelled the Dragons into the top 8 for the first time this season, Coach Mellor’s team will travel south down the M1 in the hopes of maintaining their win streak. Since a 107-79 defeat on November 2 at the hands of the high-flying Solent Kestrels, the Dragons have been victorious in five of their last seven league outings.
Chris Mellor insists his team are fully aware of the challenges the Leopards will pose this weekend.
“Essex played well against us early in the season, so we know we have to come ready Saturday. We’ve had a couple of good wins against Derby and Leicester and we need to keep the momentum going now.”
Dave Walsh is hoping for more of the same when the Dragons take on the Essex and Hertz Leopards on Saturday afternoon.
“We’re looking to feed off last weekend’s energy from the great win against Leicester. By making sure we focus on keeping a high defensive mindset and not being complacent and allowing Essex to get into their rhythm offensively.
Talking on the importance of taking care of the ball, Walsh added: “We need to try and turn our defence into scores on the opposite end, whilst keeping our mistakes to a minimum.
The Essex and Hertz Leopards come into Saturday afternoon’s clash at Oakland College amid a torrid season to date. Sitting second bottom in 14 th position, the Leopards currently hold the league’s worst record at 1-14. Leaving the team on a five-game losing streak dating back to December 1st, 2019.
The Big Cats solitary win of the season came against fellow strugglers Liverpool in a dominant 97-77 victory. The victory itself stopped a nine-game losing streak to start the season.
The Leopards are in the middle of a four-game homestand in which they dropped the opening two games. Losing 113-79 to Solent on Sunday, January 5, 2020, before falling 79-53 to the Loughborough Riders last time out.
Last Time We Met – Saturday, October 12, 2019
NBL Division One – Bradford Dragons 86-77 Essex and Hertz Leopards
The Dragons came into Matchday 3 in search of a first victory of the season after narrow losses to the Thames Valley Cavaliers and Leicester Warriors. Like the Dragons, the visiting Leopards were off to a 0-2 start to the campaign.
After going down by as many as 13 points in the second quarter, the Dragons fought back in the second half. Struggling to slow down the visitors in the opening half, out of half time the Dragons were a different beast on the defensive end. A dominant 24-17 third quarter proved to be the catalyst in the Dragons narrow comeback victory.
Going down to the wire, the marksman like shooting of Dave Walsh helped the Dragons clinch their first win of the season. Going for 20 points, Walsh knocked down five threes (5-7) in the process. Whilst Hafeez Abdul led all scorers with 28 points.
After the departure of the league’s leading scorer Hafeez Abdul to Sporting Club Adrano in Italy, the Leopards will look for a jump in production from Okoro to try and fill some of the void left by Abdul.
In 15 games this season, Okoro is recording 15.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. The 28-year-old Brit joined the Leopards in the summer after five seasons in the BBL with the Manchester Giants (three seasons) and most recently with the London Lions where he spent two seasons.
Attempting 13.5 field goals per game, Okoro is shooting 39% from two-point range and is struggling from three-point range at 27.8% on 4.8 attempts per game, so far this season. The guard is also providing 2.6 assists per game, good enough for second-highest on the roster behind teammate Prince Lartey at 3.2.
Leopards Last Five
Saturday, January 11, 2020 – Essex and Hertz Leopards 53-79 Loughborough Riders
Sunday, January 5, 2020 – Essex and Hertz Leopards 79-113 Solent Kestrels
Saturday, January 4, 2020 – Barking Abbey 82-74 Essex and Hertz Leopards
Saturday, December 21, 2019 – Leicester Warriors 94-85 Essex and Hertz Leopards
Saturday, December 7, 2019 – Nottingham Hoods 85-80 Essex and Hertz Leopards