Cougars down Pinelands
By Justin Marville | Tue, July 03, 2012 - 12:02 AM
Pinelands' meltdowns just never seem to get old.
Adrian Stewart either.
Premier League basketball’s ageless wonder scored nine of his 21 points in a crucial fourth-quarter spell, including a decisive fade-away with 1:37 remaining, to help Cougars put the cap to yet another late-game Pinelands collapse in Sunday’s 65-59 win at the Wildey Gym.
It proved a fitting celebration of Stewart’s 41st birthday, if not the perfect performance for the league’s leading scorer, who went just nine of 22 from the field with eight turnovers.
But the man who defies time was good enough to stop the clock on Pineland’s play-off charge.
With Pinelands threatening after cutting a 54-45 lead to just three, Stewart sank his last four shots including two stunning Kobe Bryant-like fade-aways over a helpless Steve Sealy.
But it was the latter that truly typified his brilliance, as the Cougars swingman barely beat the buzzer on a well-defended, 20-foot pull-up jumper to put an end to Pinelands’ menacing 8-2 run.
Not that the Pine didn’t give him some help.
A late-game Pinelands rally loomed following lay-ups from Kurt Elias and Steve Sealy (56-53), only for Elias to pick up a silly technical for going out of bounds to defend a subsequent inbounds pass.
Elias further compounded the error by illegally lining up to rebound on the ensuing free throws, allowing Stewart to retake the first free throw which he missed.
It wasn’t just the finish of Pinelands’ hopeful comeback, but it could prove the end of their postseason hopes as Pinelands (7-7) fell a game and a half behind the idle Warrens (8-5) for the fourth and final play-off berth with four games remaining.
Such a result didn’t look likely when Cougars went scoreless over the game’s first 6:46 until Anthony “Bill” White finally ended Pinelands 11-0 start to the contest.
However, Pinelands managed just a further two points in that period before White dominated down low to score the eventual go-ahead basket in the second quarter that kick-started a 12-2 Cougars’ run (28-20).
White added eight of his game-high 22 points in the third quarter in an ugly back and forth contest before Pinelands’ sloppy play led to a run of six quick points early in the fourth (54-45). White also finished with 12 rebounds for Cougars (6-7) while Elias led Pinelands with 12 points.
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