London scored a team-high 23 points to lift Straker to a 75-69 victory over Detour Shak Attack in the featured match of a double-header programme. In the opening match, Defence Force defeated Stories of Success (SOS) Basketball Academy, 105-92 to finished third in the competition.
London did everything right, from stealing balls, forcing the opponents to commit errors, picking up loose balls, being in the perfect position for rebounds on both ends of the court to ensure his team kept an unblemished win record which has been extended to 15-0.
“I am happy with my performance. It was great having the support of the team. It is all about the team, we support each other,” said London, modestly. “It was a total team effort.”
His outstanding performance came in front of the one of the biggest crowd for the season. Following the introduction of players from each team, T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis did the unofficial jump ball. This after Lewis and members of the league’s disciplinary committee including Roslyn George, FIBA commissioner Keith Clement and former Defence Force coach Mervyn Jackson met with players from both finalists.
When the match did get on the way, it was Shak Attack winning the jump but struggled to connect a basket, missing four attempts to be exact with the culprits being Kurt “Koto” Christian, Miguel Williams, Shawn Lawrence and Reynold Hospedales, respectively.
Straker used the opportunity to gain an advantage, leading 4-0 before Shak Attack regained its composure and went on a 17-0 run, to lead 17-4, eventually closing the first half up, 18-9.
It was in the second quarter that London came alive on both offence and defence, ensuring that his team stayed competitive but Christian, who always comes good for Shak Attack, was in great scoring form and kept his team ahead, hitting a three-pointer to maintain his team’s lead at halftime, 38-32.
Coach Barry Stewart and his assistant Wayne “Concrete” Sandy did well in analysing the first half and on the resumption, their Straker players followed their instructions in ramping up their defensive effort, forcing a number of turnovers which they converted to points, mainly from London, forward Jeffrey Harris (14) and post-player Moriba De Freitas (10). This led to Straker re-establishing a comfortable 56-48 lead at the end of the third quarter, outscoring Shak Attack 24-10.
Play remained in favour of Straker into the fourth quarter as Shak Attack through the contributions of Christian, who ended with a match-high 27, and Lawrence (14) fought hard to diminish their team’s deficit. However, their efforts were sidetracked when their teammate guard Orlando Mapp was called for an unsportsmanlike foul.
Referee Michael Watson in was in the perfect position to see Mapp stepping on De Freitas, who had fallen to the court after just being called for travelling while penetrating along the baseline. De Freitas went to the line and hit one of two to put his team ahead 64-56 with five minutes and 17 seconds, remaining in the match.
Shak Attack had a number of chances to reduce its deficit in the dying moments of the match, getting to the free throw line but missed way too many free throws which coach Gordon Felix admitted hurt them in the end.
“We have to finish our free throws. Our free throws were poor tonight (Thursday),” said a disappointed Felix. “It took the game away from us and if we could have closed it with the free throws We came back good but it didn’t happen. Next game we have to play a little tougher and forget the table officials and the referees.”
Tonight’s match will jump off at 7 pm at the same venue and if the series goes to a decider it is set for tomorrow. A win by Straker will see them crowned champion of the second edition of the league.
“The win was excellent. It proves that our team could withstand whatever pressure the opponents give. Shak Attack has a technique they normally use when they realise their backs against the wall, they go physical” said Sandy, following the match. “We run them out of the court and next game we will do the same.”
Earlier in the playoff match for third place, and impressive 30 three-pointers were scored in the competitive affair but it was the army/coastguard combination team, who had the support of national senior football coach Dennis Lawrence, a former member of the Defence Force, that prevailed with the 13-point win.
Leading the way for Defence Force were Derick Boxhill (22), Kerry McMillan (20), Kensley Sandy (17) while twin brothers Ahkeel and Ahkeem Boyd were best for SOS with 25 points each.