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Trident win first KO title

Justin Marville

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UPSTARTS. CARDIAC KIDS. Cinderella team. Call them whatever you want, once you also acknowledge Sagicor Tridents as knockout champs.Twenty-eight years after first making the final, the schoolboys have finally captured men’s basketball knockout trophy, finishing their surprising tournament-run with a decisive 8-2 surge to cement Saturday’s 62-52 championship win over British American Insurance Jackson at the Wildey Gymnasium.It was the most unlikely of runs from a team that hadn’t even won a Premier League game in two months before the start of the knockout, while tied with a second-worst 2-9 record.Even more stunning was the manner in which they seized the title game, having held reigning MVP Peter Alleyne to just two second-half points – none of which came in the fourth quarter – and eight overall as part of a listless finals performance.And just as Alleyne seemed to want nothing to do with winning, so too did most of the Jackson side, which looked comfortable using Pearson Griffith as a six-foot-ten ornament on offence.But they couldn’t have been more contented with Griffith’s role than the Tridents, who decisively took advantage of that lack of offensive ingenuity within the last 1:24 when Jackson could only manage a further two points.In that span, the schoolboys hit four free throws and converted two turnovers into lay-ups, padding a previous 54-50 lead into a double digit cushion before being allowed to dribble out the clock following a third turnover.That was the crowning moment of Jackson’s lacklustre fourth quarter, where the finals favourites failed to exploit Dario Cumberbatch’s muffed lay-up attempts earlier in the period, despite the efforts of Levar Greaves and Javid Beckles.They helped survive an initial Mark Bridgeman flurry and a menacing eight-point deficit (46-38) to pull Jackson within two with just under five minutes remaining.However, Nicholai Williams ended Tridents’ drought with a timely jumper before Bridgeman was back attacking the paint again as Jackson never got any closer the rest of the game.Beckles threatened once more on a subsequent drive to the hoop, but Cumberbatch was given redemption when he made all two free throws on the ensuing possession prior to his side’s game-sealing run.Earlier, nothing separated the two sides in a 25-all first-half deadlock before Neil Harewood scored successive baskets down low, as part of Jackson’s menacing 8-1 start to the third quarter.But Tridents rattled off an even more ominous string of points, with Bridgeman scoring four baskets of his own to spark schoolboys’ 13-2 response that put them ahead (40-35) for good.Point guard Akeem Williams was most instrumental in the rally, leading the attack in transition by feeding Bridgeman or Daniel Lovell for scores or calling his own number to the tune of five third-quarter points.Jackson did themselves no favours in that run either, giving their opponents several second and third chances when they failed to clear the defensive glass.It was a tune that carried over to the fourth as Bridgeman had successive scores off offensive rebounds to build Tridents’ advantage to 46-38.“The guys really believed that they had it within themselves to win,” said triumphant head coach Cosmo Edwards, himself a former schoolboy player.“We’ve grown as a team and the guys have got mentally tougher over the last four games or so.“But we couldn’t allow a player of Peter’s calibre too much room, so I convinced the guys to pretty much lock him up,” Edwards added.Bridgeman finished with a game-high 18 points, ten of which came in the fourth, while Williams and Lovell chipped in with 12 and 11 points, respectively.For Jackson, Beckles topscored with 16 and Harewood had 13 points as the lone double-digit scorers.