Orange Three Pinelands aren’t about to relinquish their Co-operators General Insurance Barbados Amateur Basketball Association Premier League title that easily.
After winning the opening match of the series, losing the second and third respectively to Barbados Lumber Company Lakers, Pinelands returned Monday night to capture game four and force a fifth and decisive championship showdown when they tied the best of five series final 2-2 at the Barbados Community College (BCC).
The defending champions came into game four needing to win in order to keep their chances alive and they did not disappoint their supporters by registering a two-point victory, 73-71, against the Lakers.
The first three quarters were keenly contested as Pinelands led 25-17, then Lakers came from behind to tie the second quarter at 34-34 and led at the third by a mere point at 54-53.
Power forward Ian Alexander scored a game-high 24 points for Pinelands. Point guards Derion Hurley and captain Jeremy Gill had 18 and 12 respectively, Damien Nicholls added eight and Junior Moore chipped in with six.
Tight defence by Pinelands on Lakers’ top shooter Keefe Birkett was one of the main reasons they were unable to score heavily as they did in both the second and third games of the series. In fact, Birkett finished with just ten points and scored only three of 16 field goal attempts. He had the most rebounds though, 11, with eight of those being defensive boards.
Compared to this past Saturday in game three when Birkett erupted on court for a massive individual score of 44 points, such was not the case Monday as Pinelands kept him under heavy guard from the opening whistle. It was the best of shooters from each team marking each other as Gill and Hurley took turns keeping an eye on Birkett, especially outside the semicircle line to ensure he did not free his arms to take any three-point shots. He only managed two three-pointers from 11 attempts.
Lakers’ center Ricardo Jemmott after missing game three returned Monday night to top score with 17 points and had the second most rebounds of nine behind Birkett. Chiamaka Browne scored 16, Adrian Allman had 13 with three consecutive three-pointers and Jehu Lafeuillee chipped in with 11 points.
At one point in the second stanza, Pinelands almost had a scare when Alexander went down on court in some form of discomfort with four minutes and two seconds to play. However, after being rested by coach Renaldo Maughan for a few minutes he came back and continued where he left off by muscling Lakers defence.
With the score a one-point difference after the penultimate quarter, the game was very much wide open. The scoreboard kept ticking over with both teams hustling in the fourth quarter, especially Pinelands’ defence led by center Nicholls and swingman Moore who both had a good game harassing Lakers offence for a combined total of 20 rebounds.
Nicholls with a great block on Lakers power forward Lafeuillee, the tallest man on court, earned them possession and none other than Nicholls himself, speeding into the post area, was able to hit the backboard for consecutive twos. That forced Lakers coach Francis Williams to call time out.
Lakers strategised a plan and found point guard Browne for a lovely layup and cut the deficit by one (67-68) but with a minute to play Gill responded with two of his own as Pinelands surged ahead 72-68. With 30.1 seconds to play Williams called time out yet again.
After that Birkett was able to sink a wonderful three-point shot to reduce Pinelands’ advantage to one point with 24.3 left in the game. Pinelands coach Renaldo Maughn called time out and on resumption, Browne committed a foul on Alexander which was given by referee Andrew Mayers.
Many faithful supporters in the stands expected Alexander to score both, seeing that his team was up by just one point. The fact that he missed the first shot left many despondent. However, he was able to score the second attempt as the clock began to wind down.
The score was 73-71 and Lakers with possession tried to use a set piece to their advantage when Browne from the baseline made an overhead pass to Lafeuillee just outside the three-point perimeter but the tall man missed the potential game-winner. Game over!
The championship decider will be contested this Thursday, July 20, at the Barbados Community College.