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Bulls still top dogs

Justin Marville

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The squad might be getting old but Bulls’ winning ways certainly aren’t.
Basketball’s Division Three title is heading back to Clapham, and seemingly for good too, as the veteran-laden Bulls used a decisive 23-11 second quarter run to secure their fifth straight league cup via Wednesday’s 67-58 series-clinching win over rivals Grazettes Nets at the YMCA.
It’s the club’s seventh crown in nine years, and the second time in four seasons that Clapham won a finals matchup against their South Zone rivals, who actually came out on top in the teams’ regular season meeting.
But Grazettes never led in this latest matchup, not after Bulls threatened to blow open the contest behind three Andrew Ifill jumpers and Junior Rock’s open court forays that propelled a 17-10 start.
However, it was the ensuing second quarter that featured the running of the Bulls – literally.
Briefly applying some full court pressure, Clapham forced three turnovers on successive possessions, two of which led directly to layups from Rock before Jeremy Gill got free on an up-fake and scored on a floater to put Bulls ahead 31-20.
This was after the Nets scored six of the last eight points of the first quarter to pull within three during the early exchanges of the second period.
But Gill and Kenrick Haynes leaked out for lay-ups before Ifill and Ricky Wiltshire added long jumpers as part of a 23-11 surge that saw Clapham pen up a menacing 42-27 advantage.
Grazettes clawed their way back into the contest, though, with Bentley Springer and Terry Grazette hitting treys on either side of the break before Nicholas Beckles had a lay-up to reduce the deficit to seven (44-37).
In all, Clapham managed just eight third-quarter points, allowing the Nets to threaten again when they forced successive turnovers to create some menacing opportunities in the open floor.
However, Grazettes blew each three-on-two fast-break, and Gill immediately made them pay via an and-one score and a subsequent lay-up to spark the game-sealing 15-2 run (65-45).
Springer hit a pair of long jumpers while Beckles had a couple of tough drives in transition to make the score more respectable.
Gill led all scorers with 17 points, Ifill had 14 while Rock and Wiltshire scored 12 and 11 points respectively. For the Nets, Springer and Grazette each had 15 points, and Corbin ten.