The great ‘Lake’
LIKE DERRICK ROSE, Keefe Birkett started the season asking “why not me?”
There’s no question the NBA’s MVP didn’t win as much as he did, though.
Premier League basketball’s Holy Grail is heading back to Husbands, and Birkett took his first ever play-off MVP with it, after Lumber Company Lakers capped a 3-1 finals win over Act II Popcorn Clapham Bulls in Sunday’s series-clinching 79-66 Game 4 victory at the Barbados Community College.
The win proved the fitting finish to what would’ve been a vengeance series for Lakers, who were on the wrong end of a 2006 finals sweep against same opponents.
It also ended a brief two-year title drought, giving the Husbands men a third league cup in five finals appearances over six years.
But it was Birkett’s first taste of success as the second-year Lakers guard went through the torment of losing last season’s epic series to the rival Cavs in his finals debut.
That defeat proved more fuel than deterrent though, leading to Birkett going on facebook and posting Rose’s now-infamous quote – a question Rose followed up months later with his first NBA MVP.
Guess all he had to do was just ask.
Birkett walked away with the play-off MVP after averaging 15.4 points in Lakers’ seven post-season games and a series-high 17.7 points in the first round against Jackson.
“It feels good because I worked hard to get here and we worked even harder as a team to do this,” said Birkett of winning both the MVP and league title.
“I made the statement not really looking to win the MVP but because I know Rose puts in the work and I put in the work on my game.
So this is justification that hard work truly pays off.”
On this occasion though, he scored just 12, but he didn’t need to do much more, with Ricardo Jemmott literally slamming the door shut in the fourth quarter.
The rangy six-foot-nine forward had two decisive dunks inside the game’s final five minutes as part of a ten-point fourth quarter performance, squashing any threat of another Clapham rally after Lakers went ahead 68-58 on a 10-3 run.
This was after no team led by more than six in an extremely physical contest that featured almost as many bumps and bruises as made baskets.
Birkett himself got in on the action, sending Zahir Motara flying into the scorers’ table in the second quarter while Clapham treated Lockhart like a human ping-pong ball after Sean Parris and Andre Boadu got into a physical confrontation.
There were highlights that actually included use of the basketball though.
Lockhart and Gill wasted no time renewing their rivalry, trading long face-up treys in the opening five minutes before Parris greeted Jemmott with an emphatic two-handed facial.
And it stood as the game’s best dunk for all of six minutes, as Jemmott sent down a thunderous put-back to start the second quarter prior to Parris hitting home another throw-down minutes later.
However, Lakers held a mere 39-36 halftime advantage and only led by as many as six (52-46) despite Gibbons’ six straight missed shots in the period and Sydney Rowe’s successive offensive fouls.
But Clapham couldn’t survive Gibbons’ futility for much longer, as Boadu’s “and-one” play to start the fourth sparked a run of eight straight Lakers points that turned a 58-55 game into a 68-58 cushion.
Gill threatened via nifty euro-step move that turned around Boadu in transition, but Jemmott closed out the game and series in emphatic fashion.
“It was an extremely long season so we’re really relieved that this is the reward after all these months of working hard,” said a jubilant head coach Francis Williams.
Ricardo Jemmott finished with 15 points and 18 rebounds, Lockhart also scored 15, Ian Alexander added 13 points and Adrian Allman scored 11. For Clapham, Gill and Halley Franklyn top-scored with 15 while Rowe added ten points.