Buoyed by a game-high 25 points from captain Jason Smith, Station Hill Cavaliers were once again unstoppable, as they trounced Barbados Lumber Company Lakers 81-73 to lift the Co-operators General Insurance Barbados Amateur Basketball Association Premier Knockout trophy for a second consecutive year. Cavs led 25-15, 42-33, 54-52 after three quarters.
Looking up at the scoreboard inside the Barbados Community College auditorium Sunday night, it appeared as though the final like so many other games in the knockout was heading for another blow out especially after Cavaliers commanded the two opening quarters.
However Lakers found their footing during the third stanza led by shooting guard Keefe Birkett with his best individual quarter score of nine points. At 49-37 to Cavaliers, Lakers began to kindle their own game with a three pointer from Adrian Allman, Birkett then followed up for consecutive twos to reduce the score by five points to 44-49 and all of a sudden it was game on.
Cavaliers began to play with greater urgency after realizing that the momentum was shifting more towards the opposition. The scoreboard kept ticking over and at 49-53 with about 50 seconds to play, Birkett put away one of two free throws, as Lakers trailed 50-54.
Fortunately for Lakers, as the clock moved from 50 to 30 seconds, they were rewarded two more free throws thanks to their six-foot tall center Jehu Lafeuille. However, the former Ellerslie schoolboy missed both attempts but luckily for his team, the second shot taken bounced off the ring, landed into the safe hands of Jae Harris who placed it into the basket for two points and in so doing cut the deficit down by two at 52-54.
Five seconds before the buzzer Allman with possession went for a three point shot which would have given Lakers a one-point lead but unfortunately the veteran shooter failed to deliver on that occasion.
As expected Lakers went for the equalizer at the beginning of the fourth and decisive quarter when power forward Ormond Haynes went up for a layup but met his match thanks to a lovely block by Lafeuille.
Haynes returned to the basket for another layup without being challenged on that occasion and tied the score at 54-54. Despite equalizing, Cavaliers’ defence ensured Lakers did not gain momentum to increase the scoreline as Joel Hunte had a passport to slam dunk to the delight of Cavaliers supporters. Meanwhile his brother Darren Hunte kept the momentum going along with Smith freeing his arms for two three point shots which collectively widened the gap at 80-67 to erase any hope of Lakers dethroning the defending champions.
With 1:01 minutes to go, Lakers coach Francis Williams called time-out but it was all a little too late because the fat lady had not only began to sing but was belting out notes of victory for Cavaliers.
Speaking with Barbados TODAY after the final, Smith said the team believed in their game plan and credited Adrian Craigwell whom he praised for being a great coach.
“This group is new. We have been together for five years, the nucleus of the team and it’s been a rebuilding programme for us since we lost Andrew Alleyne and Kevin Patterson….We believe in the coach’s [Adrian Craigwell] work and we always try to execute on the night. We have young talented guys for example Joel [Hunte] a young upcoming talent, so once everything is flowing, we remain discipline because we know Lakers are a very disciplined team,” Smith said.
The top forward who netted four three-pointers explained that Cavaliers tried to mimic Golden States Warriors’ style of play.
He added that Sunday’s plan was to keep Lakers’ top shooter Birkett quiet and even though he managed to escape Cavaliers’ defence on numerous occasion in the third quarter, the men from Station Hill never got sidetracked.
“We have played against him for a number of years and he is a very talented shooter. He got away from us at one point in the game but we remained focused, we took their punches, remained disciplined because we knew we had a chance to win going down the stretch,” said an elated Smith who made it clear they were going for the league title as well.