Lakers centre John Jones (left) dunking all over Justin Pile (right) and Shaquan Newton (partially hidden). (Picture by Kenmore Bynoe.)
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The champs now need one in their quest for six.
Lumber Company Lakers are just a game away from another Co-operators General Insurance Premier League title, having survived one furious fourth-quarter rally before pulling out Tuesday’s 78-74 Game 3 victory over Hilton Barbados Warriors at the Wildey Gym.
It was an all-important victory for the reigning five-time kings, who’ve moved within a shot of a sixth league crown after the best-of-five series was precariously perched at a game apiece.
Yet Game 3 hung in the balance, too, and very late at that, as Lakers barely led by one (74-73) with 16 seconds left.
This was after the Husbands men looked well on their way to a decisive victory, and series lead, when they went up by as many as 18 points (61-43) towards the end of the third period.
But Warriors were far from finished, valiantly clawing their way back into the contest by way of the most unbelievable of 30-13 runs to turn the rout into a stunning one-possession game.
Nicholai Williams proved just as surprising a catalyst, too, as the unheralded forward was the one to lead the dramatic turnaround with a 15-point performance in the fourth.
He looked near unstoppable at one stage, particularly on the offensive glass, where he converted three put-backs including an “and-one” finish that cut the deficit to three (74-71) with 43.2 seconds left.
He was just as dangerous out on the perimeter, hitting a couple long jumpers to sandwich lay-ups from Justin Pile and one huge Jamar Headley slam in transition.
Yet the rally almost came to an end with two minutes left, as Ricardo Jemmott answered with a drive before getting the benefit of a questionable blocking foul on Ricardo Toussaint (74-68).
However, Williams responded with that huge three-point play, and then went the length of the floor for an even bigger layup after picking off a Chiamaka Browne pass (74-73).
Keefe Birkett hit two big free throws at the other end, though, and then got lucky when a wide-open Pile missed the game-tying triple with 13 seconds remaining.
Headley did manage to get fouled on the ensuing rebound, but he split his free throws before Mark Bridgeman sealed the deal at the line mere seconds later.
It was the cap to a surprisingly close contest that looked like a certain rout when Lakers went on a big 20-8 third-quarter surge.
With Lakers leading 41-35 lead, Jones blew the game wide open on a series of deep post-ups and put-backs against Warriors’ smaller front court.
Ormond Haynes threw in a short jumper and lay-up for good measure after Browne and Bridgeman converted a pair of drives of their own at the rim.
Jones finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, Browne added 17 points and Birkett scored 11. Williams led Warriors with 24 points and 18 boards, Pile had 15 points and Headley added 13 points and 16 rebounds. (JM)