Lakers forward Jehu Lafeuille (centre) turning over Jamar Headley (left) and Nicholai Williams in the paint. (Picture by Kenmore Bynoe.)
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Lumber Company Lakers couldn’t ask for a better start, having dominated both ends of the floor of Monday’s 72-51 Game 1 victory over Hilton Barbados Warriors in the Co-operators General Insurance Premier League finals at the Barbados Community College.
It was a near perfect performance for the reigning five-time champs, who set the tone for the best-of-five series by restricting Warriors to just 26 per cent shooting, including zero of 11 from behind the arc.
And no one player typified those woes more than Jamar “Spanner” Headley after Lakers forwards Jehu Lafeuille and Ormond Haynes took turns keeping the MVP favourite in check.
The typically active Headley found no driving lanes to operate with and was constantly met at the ring by twin towers Lafeuille and John Jones.
Those two accounted for six of their team’s seven blocks to highlight a stifling defensive effort that saw Warriors manage a mere 22 points in the first half.
Not that Lakers were any slouches at the other end, though, as the champs showed their complete arsenal in an explosive 25-8 second-quarter onslaught that put them up by as many as 22 (44-22) at the break.
Point guard Chiamaka Browne proved to be the catalyst this time around, sparking the run with two free throws, a floater and a basket in transition to sandwich drives from Keefe Birkett and Adrian Allman.
What started as a slight 19-16 cushion soon became a double-digit advantage (36-22) when Jones, Lafeuille and Mark Bridgeman quickly followed with buckets in the paint.
But Bridgeman wasn’t done there, returning to score two free throws before pushing the ball in transition to hit Birkett for a trey right at the halftime horn.
Warriors did manage to make the game interesting, though, switching to a zone on the other side of the break to hold Lakers scoreless for the first three minutes of the third period.
As a result, Warriors got within 14 (44-30) after scoring eight unanswered points on a pair of fast-break layups and two tip-ins.
But the rally proved short-lived when Birkett ended the run with a timely jumper at the top of the key.
Lafeuille then followed with a jump-shot of his own and a strong drive after Jones drop-stepped to the baseline for a short hook (52-34).
Warriors started the fourth on another run that cut the lead to 12 (55-43) this time on quick scores from Headley, Justin Pile and Daniel Durant.
However, Birkett squashed that rally too, drilling a trey directly out of a timeout before Browne added two long range bombs of his own following yet another of his trademark floaters (70-49).
It was similar to Lakers’ fast 15-6 start to the game that saw Jones throw in two quick post moves to sandwich a pair of early Birkett triples.
Nicholai Williams soon got Warriors back in the contest though, putting back a miss and then scoring out of the post before Headley had another tip-in to turn it into a one-possession game (19-16).
Birkett finished with a game-high 22 points and ten rebounds, Browne scored 17 and Jones added 13 points, ten boards and three blocks.
Williams led Warriors with 12 points and Headley had ten points and 18 rebounds.
Game 2 is scheduled for tomorrow night at the same venue. (JM)