It was a close one but in the end Station Hill Cavaliers ensured they are the new title holders of the Cooperators General Insurance-sponsored Barbados Amateur Basketball Association’s Knockout Championship.
This past weekend at the Wildey Gymnasium, Cavaliers got past Hilton Resort Warriors 73-70 thanks to top scores of 20 points from guard Joel Hunte, Jamai Puckerin’s 13 and Adrian Yearwood’s 11 points. At the end of the opening quarter Warriors led 12-8 but the youthful Cavaliers side composed themselves to take the momentum away from Warriors and seize the advantage at 38-32 and 62-49 at the end of the second and third quarters respectively.
Warriors gave it their best shot thanks to quality performances from power forward Jamal Headley who ended with a game-high 24 points along with captain Nicholas King who contributed 20 points and Justin Maloney who chipped in with ten.
With the retirement of former star players like the inspirational Andrew Alleyne and others, Cavaliers are rebuilding a team hoping to one day retain the aura they once held. This was their first knockout trophy since 2010 and victorious coach Adrian Craigwell said from here on they could only grow from strength to strength.
He said preparation for the competition had not been the best due to the poor lighting situation at their Station Hill court.
“We have been having some challenges with the National Sports Council fixing the light at Station Hill and it has cost us. Since the first of November we wanted to hold an Independence tournament and we had to call it off and we have been promised several times and we have been in contact with them in terms of getting the light fixed. Right now it is just a matter of playing half court [due to the light situation] that is why we were kind of rusty at the start with our players moving up and down and not having the ability to move the basketball. But the unit is together and once we are together we will make sure that we remember certain things we have to do in open court,” Craigwell explained.
Despite the circumstances Craigwell was pleased with his team’s performance on the night even though they were without top players like Aamir Morris.
A four-point lead isn’t anything to go by in the early stages of a final or any basketball game for that matter and Cavaliers proved that when Kevin Sealy’s lay up cut the deficit down to two and Stephan Ottley’s three pointer followed by two free throws once more allowed them to take a one point advantage at 15-14.
From there Cavaliers’ offence went on a frenetic run and they added another ten points during the second quarter that forced Warriors’ coach Fredrick Bynoe to call time out.
Warriors appeared much more aggressive after their chat with Bynoe and that resulted in a number of free throws awarded to them as they drove to the basket and drew several fouls. And if that was not the case King was busy utilizing outside the ring for his three point shots which he nailed on most occasions and if he could not get a shot in, the ball would go to Headley who ensured he kept one step ahead of Cavaliers defenders in order to give spectators their monies worth with some massive dunks.
The scores were 29-26 to Cavaliers when Hunte hit two free throws to take their tally on to 31 and they eventually progressed to 38. Warriors trailed them closely and King again was responsible for taking them on to 30 points and Headley made it 32 soon after but they got no closer than six points at half time.
When the penultimate quarter began Cavaliers moved on to 40 points rather quickly and before one knew it they were up 51-38 thanks to some great execution of passes from outside the circle to Puckerin in the center who muscled his way to the basket for vital points. Warriors eventually reached 41 points through a free throw from Justin Maloney and a drive to the basket by Headley for another two.
Cavaliers continued to apply the pressure and they went into the decisive quarter with a 13-point advantage. Hunte with two more points took his side to 64 at the start of the fourth quarter but Warriors with a never-say-die attitude fought well and connected on a few three-point shots. But it was clear that with two minutes to go in the game and Cavaliers up 70-65 that Warriors needed something special from King and company. That never really came as Station Hill defended as though their lives depended on it and stifled basically all of Warriors goal-scoring opportunities for their narrow win.