Pine into semis
This one’s for Jeremy Gill.
Charles Vanderpool had the decisive “and-one” play with seconds to go and Smalta Pinelands survived the absence of their star guard and a late Cougars rally before advancing to basketball’s senior knockout semis via Thursday’s last-second 71-65 victory at the Wildey Gym.
The hard-fought win was the very small measure of solace for a Pine side without the services of a grieving Gill, who was unavailable following the recent death of a family member.
But Cougars had their own high-profile absence to deal with, as two-way forward Ricardo Jemmott also couldn’t turn up for the hyped quarter-final showdown featuring two play-off teams.
And the contest clearly missed their combined star power after neither side managed to put together anything resembling an efficient half-court offence while routinely coughing up the ball.
However, Pinelands appeared to strike a decisive blow while rattling off three uncontested layups in succession to turn a one-point cushion into a threatening 63-56 advantage midway through the fourth.
Cougars fought back, though, even when centre Shawn Gaskin fouled out just moments later, as Selwyn Brooks hit successive long jumpers to pull them within one before Godfrey Leacock’s free throw kept the contest to a one-possession game.
But Brooks and Adrian Catlyn missed wide-open go-ahead treys on the same possession, and then failed to account for Vanderpool, who got fouled on a layup after leaking out in transition.
It was the gripping finish to an otherwise tedious affair where offence was at a premium while both sides managed 24 point apiece for the first 16 minutes.
Cougars, though, looked certain of overcoming those woes when Brooks, Leacock and Adrian Stewart began to force the action in the open floor off Pinelands’ turnovers in an ensuing 10-2 surge (34-32).
Yet the lead never once went into double digits as Cougars struggled to keep the Pine off the offensive glass, which led to several second chance points for Kurt Elias underneath.
Cougars were right back at it again on the other side of the break, with Leacock hitting a huge trey as part of a personal 6-0 run that put the Hothersal side ahead 43-34.
However, Vanderpool answered with a three-point play of his own, sinking a jumper in the middle of the key while getting fouled to spark a furious 21-7 run, capped by a series of Elias fast-break layups.
Elias had 19 points for Pinelands, who will play St John’s Sonics in tonight’s featured semi-final at the same venue, while Corey McDonald and Vanderpool added 17 and 14 points, respectively.
For Cougars, Stewart led all players with a game-high 21 points, Leacock had 19 and Brooks ended with 15.
Earlier, Ashlee Daniel had nine of her game-high 17 points during a game-changing fourth-quarter run as Combined Schools Hoopsters downed ACGT Construction Tigers 57-47 in their opening round women’s knockout match.
Winmarie Bowen added 12 points, including eight in the game’s decisive quarter while the schoolgirls turned a 36-all deadlock into a double-digit cushion.
Tricia Gill led Tigers with 14 points while Jacqui Browne scored 12.