Barbados Lumber Company Lakers dethroned Orange Three Pinelands Thursday night at the Barbados Community College, to lift their first Premier League basketball trophy in six years.
Lakers pulled off a thrilling two-point, overtime victory 106-104 to capture the Co-operators General Insurance Barbados Amateur Basketball Association’s best of five series finals 3-2. It was a series that was a pulsating contest from the first game to Thursday night’s fitting climax.
Pinelands brought in Barbadian-born, overseas-based point guard Andre Lockhart as their trump card. But Lakers, who commanded the first three stanzas 27-10, 48-39 and 71-67, before Pinelands dug deep to come from behind and equalise 93-93 in the fourth quarter, were the ones hugging in jubilation when the buzzer sounded after the allotted five minutes of overtime and the final whistle blown by referee Jennifer Hackett.
The series was tied 2-2 coming into Thursday’s matchup and with everything to play for. Pinelands bringing in Lockhart just for the decisive game showed their desperation and basketball fans took up every vantage point in the BCC auditorium to see him go up against Lakers captain and ace shooter Keefe Birkett, adjudged the finals Most Valuable Player. There was also added interest as Lockhart was once the heart and soul of Lakers’ offence.
Interestingly enough, both Lockhart and Birkett ended with a game-high 26 points each, but they did not really produce the type of fireworks many had anticipated.
Both men occupied the court for over 40 minutes as Birkett netted six two point shots and three of 11 three pointers along with a perfect score of five free throws. He also had four assists.
Lockhart, on the other hand, had nine attempts from two-point range but netted only three. He scored five three pointers after taking aim from outside the semicircle 18 times and added five of eight free throws. He also had seven assists and six rebounds, five of those being defensive.
Both of Lakers’ power forwards Ricardo Jemmott with 24 points and Jehu Lafeuillee, 17, were dominant in the low post and combined for a total of 19 rebounds. Whenever they had ball possession close enough to the basket they went for slam dunks especially Lafeuillee who produced a reverse one handed effort that really excited the crowd.
From a team perspective Lakers’ 38 rebounds were nothing compared to Pinelands’ total of 50.
Chiamaka Browne tallied 14 and Jamal Singh 12 and were the only other two that made it into double figures for Lakers while Adrian Allman and Andre Boadu both contributed seven and six respectively.
The other four players from Pinelands starting five made it into double figures with captain and point guard Jeremy ‘Bull’ Gill accounting for 23 points, Derion Hurley and Junior Moore 17 each and 11 from Ian Alexander.
Because of the dynamics of having three quality shooters on his team, Pinelands’ coach Renaldo Maughn was able to rotate Gill, Lockhart and Hurley for different rest periods.
Pinelands managed to keep their title defence alive coming on to the end of the fourth quarter. In fact, it was just a matter of seconds to go when Lockhart with a pass from the baseline to Moore whose lay-up tied the contest at 93-93. Pinelands almost clinched the title with ten seconds to go when the ball was passed to Lockhart who made a three- point attempt but missed the shot.
After a two-minute break, overtime commenced and the scoreboard went from 93-93, 95-95, 99-99 but one of two free throws by Lockhart broke the deadlock for the men in orange and black (100-99). But unfortunately for Pinelands Gill committed his fifth personal of the game when he fouled Birkett In the three-point area with a minute and 24 seconds to play.
That was a huge blow for Pinelands and of course, Birkett scored all three free throws to give his team the momentum. Pinelands never allowed them to get too far ahead and again the scores were tied up 102-102 and 104-104 when Lakers point guard Browne nailed a two point shot as he lost balance, with many expecting the ball not to score but it did as Lakers supporters jumped for joy as the score board read 106-104 with 12.9 seconds left to play.
Pinelands had ball possession and from a set play, Moore swiftly passed to Lockhart who went for glory from three-point range but missed at the sound of the buzzer, as Lakers players embraced each other with joy.
Speaking after the game both Birkett and the man that coached Lakers to the title, Francis Williams, said this was by far the sweetest victory they had both experienced.
Francis explained that with Lockhart showing up for Thursday night’s game, it changed the dynamics for his team but he remained confident in his players to pull off the win.
“I can’t put it in words, it is probably the sweetest one that we had for a number of reasons. The club went through a lot of things for the past four years and we worked through a three-game semifinal, a five-game final and then an overtime against what Pinelands presented.
“We knew it would have changed the dynamics of the team but we were hoping that it would work in our favour. Bringing in a player at that time had something to do with chemistry and that is what we were counting on and to some extent, it worked tonight,” Williams said.