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THE TITLE CONTENDERS from Combermere look more like basketball’s title pretenders. Combermere’s latest big game turned into another huge flop after opposing guard Ashley Smith scored eight fourth-quarter points, including six straight to break a deadlock in the final minute of Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic’s gripping 72-63 home win on Tuesday in the United Insurance Division 1 tournament. It was the hosts’ first win in three games, improving their record to a second best league mark of 7-2 after they snapped a telling two-game losing skid. But while the result reaffirmed Polytechnic’s status as one of the tournament favourites, it did anything but for Combermere, who are now just 1-3 against teams with a winning record including a dubious 0-2 mark against the Wildey side. And this was a Combermere squad that had “championship or bust” expectations after returning the big three of Jamario Clarke, Tionne Bostic and Jimal Singh. Maybe they can just settle for being busts. They certainly played it after falling behind by as many as 13 points (42-29) in the third quarter while failing to contain Alex Cumberbatch off the dribble or keep tabs on opposing big man Nicholas Rouse in the paint. It wasn’t even the first time Combermere were down double digits either, with the home side scoring 16 of the game’s first 22 points in an opening quarter that Combermere managed a mere eight points. However, Clarke scored eight quick points early in the fourth quarter, leading a stirring 19-9 rally that locked the game at 56 with 3:19 remaining before long jumpers from Singh and Josiah Beckles forced a 63-all deadlock inside the final minute. The run was one for the ages as Clarke dominated the key on a series of jump hooks, power moves and put-backs in the unlikeliest of fourth-quarter comebacks that turned a lacklustre blowout into a thrilling barn burner. But Combermere never scored again, giving the contest one anticlimactic finish as Smith had the final laugh by engineering a decisive run of nine uncontested points to close the game. With Clarke missing a potential go-ahead free throw, Smith immediately made Combermere rue the gaffe with a layup before sinking two free throws to make the contest a two-possession game. And he wasn’t finished just yet, converting a Combermere turnover into another pair of free throws when he attacking his back-pedalling marker in transition for a clear foul. Cumberbatch added a further free throw when Clarke missed a short hook at the other end, before Tyoka Young got free for a meaningless lay-up in the open floor at the buzzer. Smith and Rouse both finished with 18 points while point guard Denzil Bovell assisted with 12 and Taurean Miller added 11. For Combermere, who fell to 4-3, Clarke scored 17 points, Singh had 16 and David King netted ten. At Crumpton Street, reigning eight-time kings Barbados Community College improved to a league-leading 9-0 record after outlasting hosts Harrison College 65-61. Queen’s College downed a visiting Foundation 56-35 while home side Lodge edged St Michael 56-55 in a one-point thriller.