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Pinelands blow it


Justin Marville

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PINELANDS ADMITTEDLY LOST their cool, and quite possibly their grip, on a play-off spot on Thursday.Assistant coach Gregory “Coppa” Paul got ejected before Charles Vanderpool picked up a needless technical inside the final minute as the previously woeful Act II Popcorn Clapham Bulls took advantage of the Pine’s fourth-quarter meltdown in a 77-74 win at the YMCA.The defeat – Pinelands’ second in succession against a team with a losing record – could prove costly to the Pine’s post-season hopes, having dropped them into a fourth-place tie with Jackson (9-4) for the final play-off spot with three games to play.And two of those remaining fixtures are against Jackson and the league-leading Lakers (12-1), who pummelled Pinelands by 35 points in their season opener.But it wasn’t the Lakers, rather themselves, who proved to be the Pine’s tormentors this time around after Pinelands actually managed to recover from an early fourth-quarter double-digit deficit (63-53).Swingman Ramon Simmons ended a streak of eight straight misses with five quick points as part of an 8-0 Pinelands run that pulled his side within two, less than five minutes into the period.And the ejection of opposing forward Mark Foster only threatened to provide further impetus to the rally.Inexplicably though, Paul, along with most of Pinelands bench, was visibly livid with the call, probably mistaking the referee’s signal for a double foul, and he was ejected for his verbal reactions.However, Pinelands were still within striking distance, keeping the deficit to just one (69-68) at the two-minute mark on the heels of Vanderpool’s crucial “and-one” play in the paint.But the hero soon became the villain just seconds later, as the Pine forward got whistled for a pointless technical while barking at teammate Chris Holder following a dramatic three-pointer from opposing guard Jeremy Gill.That string of six successive Clapham points (75-68) proved to be the difference in the contest, as Gill and Rahiim Gibbons each added a free throw to overcome Kirk Patrick’s late treys.Later, Akeem Marsh had a game-high 30 points and 11 rebounds as Roll-A-Way St John’s Sonics (7-6) kept their slim post-season hopes alive in a 75-65 victory over DC United.

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