Kolij Lions are the new titleholders of the Barbados Amateur Basketball Association 2017 Summer Jam Under-16 competition.
Led by a game-high 29 points from point guard and eventual Most Valuable Player Brandon Ruck, Lions were able to roar over Next Generation Green Monkeys 74-57 (25-10, 35-26, 53-42) Thursday night at the Barbados Community College.
The champion team coached by Dario McCollin pressed the opposition offence rather early in the exchange and they turned on the accelerator after the scores were tied 8-8 for a comfortable 17-point run [25-8] just before the opening stanza had concluded.
Ruck was the man that set the bar high for the Kolij shooters by nailing three of five three point shots in the first quarter.
After Kolij broke the deadlock at 8-8 with a layup compliments Caleb Barrow, Ruck hit two consecutive jump shots outside the semicircle for a 16-8 momentum lead that forced Next Generation coach Zahir Motara to call time out.
Simeon Maynard and Miguel Gibson both accounted for ten points each while Chikosi Boardi had eight for Kolij. Meanwhile, Tre Ward and Kurt Lambert netted 20 and 19 points respectively and were the only two players into double figures for Next Generation.
There was some improvement on the part of Next Generation in the second quarter as they hustled with a lot more purpose and created quite a few turnovers in their effort to break down Kolij’s momentum. But the boys from Crumpton Street stood firm and closed out Next Generation’s attackers where necessary.
At half time Motara and his boys were plotting how to erase Kolij’s nine-point lead and shift the momentum in Next Generation’s favour. In the penultimate stanza, Lambert began to unravel the masterpiece his team strategized, delivering a lovely executed layup. Ward then found the basket for two and the foul throw which he missed but that was okay because they were only down by a deficit of five (30-35) which was rather gettable.
A layup from Maynard, a two point shot each from Ruck and Miguel Gibson, however, changed that for Kolij as they further increased their lead 41-30. But interestingly enough, Ruck got a technical for using indecent language towards the referee which was rather unnecessary with six minutes and 55 seconds to play and his team having an 11-point cushion to sit on.
Kolij were never sidetracked and quickly progressed to a score of 51 and Next Generation on 32 points needed someone on court to move them from that position and Lambert was the lad that took on the challenge as he drove forcefully towards the ring and in so doing earned himself the basket and a free throw after being fouled.
Unlucky for Lambert he missed but with the score being on 37 at that moment, he made up for it with a fantastic three-point shot along with two free throws to make the scores 42-53 and a 13- point game heading into the fourth and decisive quarter.
Unfortunately for Kolij, Arrio Pope had to take a seat on the bench for the duration of the fourth period after fouling out. But not at the expense of Kolij who were in a dominant position as they tallied 21 points compared to 15 by Next Generation to lift the title.
An elated McCollin said Thursday’s victory was particularly special and enjoyable because initially the team comprising of mostly boys from Harrison College did not have any intention of entering a team for this year’s tournament.
Giving a recap on the final, McCollin explained that his team was faster, stronger and more athletic and therefore used that to their advantage. He, however, credited Next Generation for having really good fundamentals.
“Our athleticism, our speed, our aggression on defence and I think they didn’t like it and our guys love to do it and I think that really turned the table for us coming on to the end of the first quarter,” he said.
Now that the journey is over and Kolij succeeded at the Under-16 level, McCollin said they will now focus their attention on the Under-19 Division scheduled to start a week from now.