Already Burger King Clapham Bulls have fastened their grip on the Co-operators General Insurance Barbados Amateur Basketball Association Premier League Championship trophy with a game one victory, 85-78, against Station Hill Cavaliers in their best of five finals.
The Ryan Leacock-coached Bulls team enjoyed first-half advantages of 21-20 and 45-34 until Cavaliers responded with a 64-61 scoreboard to secure a three-point lead going into the fourth and decisive stanza last night at the Wildey, Gymnasium.
Led by a game-high 32 points [13 two-point shots, one trey and three of five free throws] from national power forward Akeem Marsh, Bulls, down by three to start the fourth quarter, went on to secure the all-important opening salvo by seven points.
National guard Kelan Phillips contributed double figures of 18 points and had a great night on defence with 13 rebounds while Marsh had nine in total. Phillips scored six two-point shots and added six points from a perfect night at the charity strip.
Marsh, who occupied the court for 34 minutes, was responsible for switching the momentum back in Bulls’ favour at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The six-footer produced a layup, followed by a massive dunk which sandwiched a two-point shot by captain Rahim Gibbons to give Bulls the one-point lead 67-66 – two minutes into the crucial period.
The lead interchanged on several occasions during the quarter until Bulls up 81-78 with under a minute left to play, scored six straight points and secured a hard fought 85-78 points victory against Cavaliers in the opening championship playoff.
Marsh and Phillips were the only two that made it into double digits for Bulls as the next best score was seven points from Andrew Ifill and Tehron King. Rahim Gibbons and Amal Smith registered six points each while Sean Parris had five and Romaine Lovell added four.
A win to commence the league showdown is a good start for Bulls who lost to four-time champions Cavaliers last month in the BABA knockout final. These two teams are no stranger to each other and would have met in the 2006 premier league final when Bulls won.
That was the last time Bulls punched their passage into a league final having been in rebuild mode ever since but have now resurfaced in a significant way to reach two finals this 2019 season.
Bulls defeated Barbados Hilton Resort Warriors 2-1 to reach this year’s league final which was the same scoreline for Cavaliers who ousted former two-time champions Barbados Lumber Company Lakers during their semifinal playoff.
Cavaliers fought well even though they were without the services of head coach Adrian Craigwell who departed the island yesterday for the Netball World Cup in Liverpool as an assistant coach for the senior national team.
Assistant coach Carlos Moore tried his best and perhaps was hoping in vain when he called a time- out with 34 seconds left to play, and Bulls at that stage had a five-point lead [83-78].
Dwayne Kellman had the highest individual score of 21 points for Cavaliersand received help from the Hunte brothers Joel [20 points] and Darren [13 points] as those three took the attack to Bulls in a losing effort.
Also contributing were Jamai Puckerin with seven points, captain Jason Smith added six and there were four points from Saeed Norville. Corey Howard tallied three-points and there were two each from Omar Bowen and Kevin Sealy.
It was not the most entertaining final with several scrappy moments, but Cavaliers have only themselves to blame with several failed attempts and unnecessary fouls, especially in the last quarter.
With eight seconds left to play, Joel Hunte went after a three-point shot that hit the rim of the basket, and that was the final attempt, as any likely come-from-behind moment never materialised.