Andre Lockhart knew it was a matter of when – and not if – Jamar King was going to show up.
What would this basketball Premier League postseason be without King’s fourth-quarter heroics anyway?
Lumber Company Lakers are one win away from securing the finals after the wretched reserve finally came good by scoring seven of a team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s thrilling 74-69 Game 3 win over Act II Popcorn Clapham Bulls at the Wildey Gym.
It was the latest chapter of an unlikely postseason legend that started rather unsuspectingly when King rose from obscurity to average over 18 points during Lakers’ postseason run last year.
But the underachieving bench player regressed into the shadows since, scoring just 1.5 points per game during these play-offs while going scoreless in both Games 1 and 2 of the finals.
Even if he lost faith in himself, Lockhart never did, posting on Twitter seven hours before the contest that he believed King was going to “have a breakout game”.
And, boy, did he ever.
It wasn’t as epic as last year’s buzzer-beater to force overtime, but King’s late-game effort was just as significant, with the little-used back-up hitting successive jumpers to abruptly end Clapham’s menacing game-tying 27-12 rally (59-59).
This was after King was initially responsible for sparking a Lakers 36-27 half-time lead that turned into a 15-point cushion (47-32), as he and Ian Alexander combined for 18 of the team’s 26 second-quarter points to put the side up by nine.
Their work was far from finished, though, even after Lakers appeared to survive Bulls’ threatening run by going up eight (67-59) on Lockhart’s scoop shot off a pass fake with five minutes remaining.
King added a lay-up before Alexander’s breakaway two-handed dunk, but Clapham still rallied again, as Zahir Motara hit a fall-away trey prior to baskets from Jeremy Gill and Mark Foster to cut Lakers’ lead to 71-68.
However, Alexander sank a crucial jumper inside the final minute while Gill and Motara both missed good looks from behind the arc to leave Bulls’ comeback just short.
It was the less impressive of the two rallies, which started after Clapham fell behind by as many as 15 in the third quarter following a run of nine straight points between Lockhart and Ricardo Jemmott.
Gill gave them a sign of the times to come, though, helping Bulls to get within ten (56-46) by the end of the period by scoring six quick free throws before all hell broke loose on the other side of the break.
Clapham’s guards were all over the place, forcing six early turnovers that led to three Foster lay-ups – the last of which locked the scores at 59 with 6:49 remaining.
But King knocked down an open trey before getting away with a possible travelling violation on a subsequent short jumper to quash Bulls’ crowd-fuelled surge.
Lockhart and Alexander both finished with 15 points, while Gill led all scorers with 23 points, ten rebounds and five steals for his second straight 20-10 effort in the finals.
The series was set to continue last night with Game 4 at the Barbados Community College.