Defending champions Barbados Lumber Company Lakers eked out a narrow one-point victory, 62-61, to force a decisive game three against Station Hill Cavaliers in the Co-operators General Insurance Barbados Amateur Basketball Association Premier League semifinal playoff last night.
The Francis Williams-coached Lakers side trailed 16-19 in the opening stanza but showcased a spirited effort to lead 33-31 and 47-45 in the second and third quarters at the Barbados Community College.
It was the type of thriller basketball enthusiasts long to see as Lakers forward Ormond Haynes with seconds left to play scored one of two free throws that proved the game-winning point.
Cavaliers with possession on the resumption of a time-out [27.7 seconds] were unable to find the basket due to intense defensive pressure applied by Lakers who tied the playoff series 1-1 after losing game one 93-79.
National point guard Keefe Birkett registered a game-high 24 points with four treys scored in the fourth and final quarter. On the court for close to 37 minutes, Birkett also shot five two-pointers and had two free throws in his overall tally.
Mark Bridgeman accounted for 12 points, and Ricardo Jemmott had ten as those two also played strong defence and had a combined total of 23 rebounds between them.
Other contributors to the score were captain Chiamaka Browne with six points, three points each from Ormond Haynes and Andre Boadu while Adrian Allman and Jahmai White both had two points.
National power forward John Jones decided to call it quits with the Lakers and now Cavaliers forward Granville Gittens who played the first semifinal playoff match last Tuesday also threw in the towel and did not feature on the court yesterday.
Coach Adrian Craigwell opted not to share much information except to confirm that Gittens, strong both on offence and defence, made the decision to leave the team.
That is a significant blow for Cavaliers because the six-footer has a leading average of 14.8 points per game among those on the Cavaliers’ roster. On defence the same story applies as Gittens comfortably leads as the team’s top and most productive rebounder.
Dwayne Kellman with 16 points was the highest individual scorer on the night for Cavaliers followed Joel Hunte with 12 and there were ten points each from Darren Hunte and captain Saeed Norville.
Kevin Sealy added six points, Stephan Ottley scored four and Jason Smith with three were the main contributors for Cavaliers in what was a low scoring affair replete with turnovers from both sides.
Lakers recorded 25 turnovers while Cavaliers had 19 as both teams hustled hard during the exchanges in which the lead changed 13 times. Craigwell as early as the second quarter also received a technical in the game officiated by umpires Dexter Griffith and Jennifer Joseph- Hackett.
Lakers entered the fourth and decisive quarter with a two-point lead at 47-45 but suffered a blow to their defence when rangy centre Ricardo Jemmott was struck seconds into the period and had to leave the court.
Andre Boadu replaced Jemmott, and after three minutes in, Cavaliers were first to score compliments a Saeed Norville layup to which Birkett responded with a three-point shot and ensured the momentum [50-47] remained with Lakers.
As the match progressed, Cavaliers came back from their deficit [59-61] and tied the scores at 61-61 thanks to a great play by Joel Hunte with a rebound, followed by a quick dribble to the basket where he scored the equaliser.
The match could have gone either way, and Norville with possession for Cavaliers, was unable to find the basket with seconds to play as the buzzer sounded to signal the end and set a date for game three to play sometime this week.
Barbados Hilton Resort Warriors also came from behind to force a decisive game three against Burger King Clapham Bulls with a 79-62 victory in the opening semifinal playoff match.
A collective effort on offence by national player Justin Pile with 25 points and a contribution of 24 by Jamar ‘Spanner’ Headley led Warriors to success in game two as they dominated 21-20, 40-34 and 60-49 in the first three stanzas.
Those two made it into double figures for Warriors with the next best scores coming from Ricardo Toussaint with nine points, eight from Shaquan Newton and five from captain Brett Williams.
National forward Akeem Marsh accounted for a game-high 27 for Bulls along with a contribution of ten points by Rahim Gibbons. Captain Andrew Ifill chipped in with seven in a losing cause.