The champs are headed to the finals once again.
Defending champions Orange 3 Pinelands are just one game away from retaining their knockout title, after easily dispatching of Urban Vybz St John’s Sonics 71-60 in the semifinals of the Co-operators General Insurance competition at the Wildey Gymnasium last night.
Their opponents in tonight’s final will be Hilton Barbados Resort Warriors, who surprisingly thumped Pan American Life Insurance Warrens Sports Club 69-53 in the night’s opening match.
Four of Pinelands’ starters got into double digits, which helped to negate a game-high 20 point performance from Sonics’ big man Akeem Marsh, who at one point looked capable of almost single handedly carrying his team to victory.
But whenever it seemed as if Sonics were poised to make a run, Pinelands just found a way to answer back.
After a close first half, which saw Sonics hold a slim 33-31 lead, Pinelands threatened to run away with the contest in the third period.
Four straight free throws by the Pine’s Jeremy Gill and a tough layup by Charles Vanderpool as he knifed through traffic, helped to extend the lead to seven (44-37) with 4:35 remaining in the quarter.
However, Marsh responded with a baseline jumper, and capped off a 9-2 Sonics run with a three-pointer which helped to tie the score at 46-46 with 17 seconds on the clock.
But Junior Moore’s “and one” move at the buzzer, ensured Pinelands headed into the final period with a three-point lead.
With Gill forced to the bench shortly afterwards after injuring his right ankle just two minutes in, Marsh once more took control.
First he scored a left-handed layup over Vanderpool and then finished with a powerful two-handed dunk after being setup by Dwayne Kellman’s fancy pass, after splitting two defenders with a crossover to bring Sonics within one (53-52) with 7:30 left in the contest.
A 7-1 Pinelands run though, fueled by Hally Franklyn’s tireless rebounding effort, sealed the deal and sent them through to their second consecutive knockout final.
Franklyn outhustled his bigger and taller defenders on his way to grabbing three crucial offensive rebounds, and scoring eight of his team’s final 14 points in the final five minutes.
Vanderpool led the Pine with 17 points, Gill had 15, Junior Moore scored 14, Franklyn added 13 and Ramon Simmons 10.
Philip Harewood scored 11 points and Dwayne Kellman 10 in a losing effort for Sonics.
Earlier, Warriors point guard Tremaine Shaw marked his return to the Premier League after a two-year ban in winning fashion, helping his side to a dominant showing over Warrens – one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Heading into the fourth quarter with a 46-39 lead, Warriors used a quick 6-0 run to put the game out of the reach of their opponents.
Kenny Matthews was the main catalyst, as he punished Warrens’ slower defenders for not running the court, as he regularly converted easy fast break opportunities.
Warrens would get no closer than 10 the rest of the way, with a trey by Daniel Durant pushing the lead to 15 (59-44) with just over six minutes left.
Matthews had a game-high 24 points, and he was ably assisted by Ricardo Touissant who contributed 15 points.
For Warrens Sports Club Pearson Griffith top scored with 15 points and Jamar King scored 10 points.