Bulls are Under-21 champs
FOUL TROUBLE. A fourth quarter deficit. The league’s deepest team.
Rahiim Gibbons probably had a harder time surviving several of Clapham’s onrushing fans.
Under-21’s best basketballer gave the tournament its best performance yet, scoring three treys and ten of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter of Act II Popcorn Clapham Bulls’ championship-winning 67-64 triumph over City United on Saturday at the YMCA.
The victory presented Clapham with their second junior title in four years, and first under rookie coaches Roger Branch and Neil Leacock.
But this wasn’t the star-studded Bulls squad of old, not after the side returned just one starter from that 2007 title team.
Having Gibbons was clearly enough.
Especially when Clapham’s crafty floor general scored eight straight Bulls points at one stage to convert a 44-38 deficit towards the end of the third into a 51-50 fourth quarter lead.
All this while he picked up his fourth foul.
City didn’t go quietly though, with Dario Cumberbatch and Darren Adams combining for four quick baskets, before an Antonio Sealy put-back restored United’s advantage (58-54) with four minutes remaining.
But the best of Gibbons was yet to come.
Clapham’s resolute point guard was ruthless in response, accounting for seven of Clapham’s last nine points including a pair of clutch treys – the last one coming some five feet behind the arc.
“I was just feeling it, so I let it fly,” Gibbons said of the late flurry.
It was the basis of a decisive 12-2 run, spurred on by Junior Rock but also aided by City going scoreless during a crucial three-minute span while Bulls went ahead 66-60.
“This was very tough coming on in the end there but we found a way to pull through,” added Gibbons.
However, Clapham almost handed the game right back, after Lorenzo Thorpe needlessly fouled Adams behind the arc before the latter made good on a three-pointer to put United behind 67-64.
City even had a chance to force overtime, having forced a turnover on the ensuing inbounds play with six seconds remaining.
Cumberbatch’s shot fell short though, and Saeed Norville’s game-tying triple came well after the buzzer, much to the elation of the Bulls supporters who stormed the court.
They didn’t look likely of doing such when it was United who stormed out to a 21-12 advantage early in the second, coming on the heels of two Adams’ triples and a pair of baskets down low from Sealy.
But Gibbons soon shook free of City’s box-and-one defence by pushing the ball in transition before his stunning step-back trey got Bulls within three (29-26) at half-time.
Clapham even went ahead (38-37) on a Romaine Lovell lay-up, only for Cumberbatch and Sealy to rattle off seven straight between them, as United threatened to blow the game wide open.
Cumberbatch had a team-best 20 points, with Adams and Sealy adding 18 and 13, respectively, while Rock assisted Gibbons with 18 points.