Spartans have earned their passage to compete in next season’s premier league after they recovered from a game one defeat to win the Co-operators General Insurance Barbados Amateur Basketball Association First Division title with an 86-76 victory over the University of the West Indies Blackbirds last night. They won the series 2-1.
Playing at the Wildey Gymnasium, it was the Derek Aimey-coached UWI side that took an early 22-19 lead in the opening stanza before Spartans finally composed themselves in the second and third quarters where they led 42-34 and 59-48.
Spartans’ 21-year-old guard Theo Greenidge was in beast mode on the court as he starred with a game-high, match-winning 29 points performance. Big man Philip Harewood registered the second-highest total of 22 points, captain Dale Franklyn tallied 13 while Larry King contributed nine points.
At a crucial time when his team stumbled from a 15-point advantage to a mere two-point lead [76-74], Greenidge nailed a three-pointer and followed up with a layup for the Church Village, St. Phillip-based team.
It was at that stage with a minute left to play in the fourth and decisive stanza that the fat lady opened her pipes as UWI never recovered from Greenidge’s dominance and Spartans’ overall march to victory.
Victorious coach Edmond Brathwaite said Spartans had been knocking at the doors of the premier league for the last seven years, but teams such as Patriots, Challengers and most recently Celtics had overshadowed them.
Brathwaite explained that this year they were more composed and were happy to finally make it against UWI who he said were their most significant threat of the 2019 First Division season.
“We just had to get it together, we always seem to lose it in these big moments, but this year we finally got it together. It was always meant to happen from the start of the competition I spoke to Aimey and he said we would meet in the finals. We met first game of the knockout, the other two games that we played we always seemed to have control of the game but then we lost it. But we have a little WhatsApp group, and we stuck together and discuss what it takes to beat their press because that is their main weapon. Once we beat the press we slowed the game down,” Brathwaite said.
UWI forward Aiende Bernard top-scored with 16 points while Jamar King tallied 15 points with 11 scored in the first quarter. Oliver Silveira added 12 points and Stephan Clarke with nine were the other two contributors.
UWI gained as much as a nine-point lead [20-11] in the opening quarter as Spartans in addition to several turnovers tried to employ a full-court press that did not work well in their favour. Coach Brathwaite changed that strategy and with less than three minutes to play Spartans began to show some real fighting spirit.
It started when Philip Harewood scored the basket and one, then guard Keon Young put away a long pass while Greenidge nailed a three-point shot to cut the deficit by three, 22-19, when the period concluded.
In the second quarter the scores were locked 31-31 and with three minutes and 31 seconds on the board, Spartans captain Dale Franklyn struggled with his free throws as he missed two shots that would have given his side the lead. Franklyn also was in foul trouble with three to his name in the first half.
Larry King became the man to give Spartans the advantage when he scored a jumper and then a layup to break the 31-31 deadlock.
Spartans switched into another gear and Harewood was heavily involved when he scored over UWI’s six-footer Jonathan Dottin. Harewood then made an assist to his captain Franklyn for a layup while Damien Skeete buried a three-point shot to ensure Spartans got an eight-point [42-34] advantage at halftime.
Spartans picked up from where they left off when Franklyn netted a two-point shot to commence the penultimate quarter. However, he was benched after picking up his fourth personal foul less than a minute [9:07] into the quarter.
Following that Dottin scored for UWI who needed to play a lot more defence and get themselves into the game but instead they allowed Spartans to press the offence and went ahead 52-38 in that crucial third period of the game.
Joniton Fowler made a difference for UWI in the third quarter notably when he produced a spin and then the floater to reduce the lead by ten [57-47] when his team decided to call a timeout just before the quarter ended. UWI needed to deliver something special in the decisive fourth quarter as pressure began to mount on them at that stage.
Aiende Bernard began the ball rolling for UWI with a layup, and from there the University men looked more comfortable as they scored a lot more freely and chopped down Spartans 15-point advantage to trailed by just five points at 76-71.
UWI were successful in taking control after several bad turnovers by Spartans coming on to the end, and Anand Joseph-Thorne scored the layup that brought UWI’s deficit down to two at 74-76. But Greenidge with lots of passion and aggression in the dying stages of the game played his heart out to ensure Spartans ramped up the lead once more and emerged as champions.