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Experts’ say on BABA play-offs

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

Experts’ say on BABA play-offs

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The BABA Premier League play-offs start on Tuesday with Game 1 of the two first-round series between Lakers and Cougars, and Sonics and Pinelands. Ahead of the matchups, a team of three experts give their picks on both best-of-three series.
Lakers in three: This year’s Premier League playoffs have all the ingredients of an Old Year’s Night fireworks display.
It won’t be easy, but I expect the three-time league champions, Lumber Company Lakers to edge Cougars 2-1 in what will be a thrilling contest.
Any series with Andre Lockhart, Keefe Birkett, Adrian Stewart and Godfrey Leacock won’t lack points. However it’s on defence where I give Lakers the edge.
With the likes of Omari Corbin, Ormond Haynes, Andre Boadu and Matthew Moore, Lakers have the potential to neutralize Cougars’ star forward/centre Ricardo Jemmott.
This would place added pressure on both Stewart and Leacock to do the bulk of the scoring. Not that it’s anything out of the ordinary for the dynamic duo, but I just can’t see them keeping it up through an entire series, especially as Leacock is known to be a streaky scorer.
Pinelands in two: Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong believer in Sonics’ reigning MVP Akeem Marsh, but I’m just not a believer in the rest of the squad.
Ramon Simmons has been way off his best this season, and Rahiim Gibbons hasn’t adjusted as well as Sonics were hoping. Dwayne Kellman, Shane Whittaker and Stefan Clarke are all streaky, and can’t be counted on to provide much needed scoring.
I expect Jeremy Gill to be the deciding factor. He proved unstoppable in their second round matchup and I expect him to do the same in the play-offs.
With strong support expected from the reliable Charles Vanderpool and Daniel Lovell, I’m predicting a 2-0 win for the men from the Pine.
Lakers in two: I fully expect Keefe Birkett to continue his excellent shooting  against a defence which is not disciplined enough to force him off the perimeter.
Lakers are too deep and talented, especially at the guard and swingman positions, with the likes of Birkett, Adrian Allman, Andre Lockhart, Ian Alexander and Mark Bridgeman.
Adrian Stewart, returning from his injuries, will at least make this series  a bit competitive at times, but Cougars have to take advantage of the paint in order to control the tempo of the game. And that means Ricardo Jemmott has to step up for this matchup against his former team; so too Shawn Gaskin, who must stay out of foul trouble and log valuable minutes.
At the end of it all I still expect Lakers to complete this semi-final sweep.
Sonics in three: This series should be filled with exciting plays and highlights from tip-off to the final buzzer.
On the perimeter you have former Clapham Bulls guards going head to head in the form of Sonics’ Rahiim Gibbons and Ramon Simmons versus Pinelands’ duo of Jeremy Gill and Danny Lovell. Then on the inside there will be two livewires with Sonics forward Akeem Marsh going head-to-head with Charles Vanderpool.
Both benches in this series are weak though, so much of the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the starters and I expect these games to come down to which team’s role players perform the best on any given night. The league’s rebounding leader, Sonics’ Dwayne Kellman, will need to control the boards for his team to have a chance.
This series is tough to call, but I’m going with Sonics winning a tough Game 3.
Lakers in three: The readiness of Cougars’ best player remains a question mark.  Adrian Stewart, who at times shoots as if missing is not an option, has missed the latter part of the regular season due to injury to his shooting arm. Admittedly, Geoffrey Leacock has picked up the slack, especially with his three-point shooting, but with Andre Lockhart, Keefe Birkett, Ian Alexander and Adrian Allman, the Lakers can more than match Leacock’s load – thus why Stewart is needed, and at the top of his game.
Of course Cougars also have one of the best “bigs” in the island in Ricardo Jemmott, who is also a match-winner. Lakers coach Francis Williams will need all of his big men – Andre Boadu, Omari Corbin and Matthew Moore – to wear down Jemmott. That possibility makes the contribution of Cougars’ other forward/centre, Shawn Gaskin, very vital.
In the land of sub-plots, if Moore can start taking and making his 12-foot uncontested jumpers, and Allman thinks “shoot” before “drive”, then Lakers should advance to yet another final.
Pinelands in three: Right now Pinelands are a team you wouldn’t want to play against before the finals. The season-saving pickup of point guard Jeremy Gill from out of his early retirement has made the former champs title contenders once again.
The backcourt potency of Gill and three-point chucker Decarlo Skeete will be difficult for Sonics to contain, and if Corey McDonald can find back his Warriors-groove, they’ll be very hard to beat.
However, if they are to be defeated, Sonics will have to do it through Akeem Marsh. He’s one big-man who can pull his defender to the outside and either shoot over him, or take him to the hole.
The Pine will remember, however, in their last meeting that they held Marsh to just two points in the second half on a below-par 11-point night. If coach Terry Inniss can’t find the plays to free-up his go-to guy, then there’ll be some long nights for Sonics unless players like Ramon Simmons and Rommel Garnes come to the party with their ‘A’ games.