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Sonic boom


Sonic boom

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PINELANDS’ FAIRY TALE run didn’t quite come with a storybook finish.
Dwayne Kellman had all but four of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and Urban Vybz St John’s Sonics scored the game’s last nine points without reply to beat rivals Smalta Pinelands 69-60 in Saturday’s senior men’s basketball knockout semis at the Wildey Gym.
The win cemented the first ever appearance in a top flight final for Sonics, who will meet Station Hill in Saturday’s finale following the Cavs’ earlier 68-65 victory over Warriors.
It also marked the end of a gripping tourney run from a Pine side that seemed destined for greatness after stunning the newly-crowned league champion Lakers and then upending fellow playoff contenders Cougars.
But the supposed team of destiny met its real fate as Pinelands just couldn’t beat a third postseason qualifier in as many games after going scoreless in the final two minutes.
This was after Corey McDonald hit a game-tying trey (59 all) with 2:47 to play in a true war of attrition where no one led by more than seven for the previous 37 minutes.
Rahiim Gibbons answered with the go-ahead put-back off his own miss though, before Kellman added a banker off the dribble and Shane Whittaker split a pair of free throws to make the contest a two-possession game.
Pinelands still had a chance to get within striking distance on the very next possession, with Charles Vanderpool in prime position in the paint for what appeared to be an easy jump hook.
However, Akeem Marsh turned back the feeble attempt at the ring, and attempted to go coast-to-coast off the subsequent loose ball before getting into a heated exchange with opposing guard Justin Maloney for an ensuing foul at the other end.
It was about the only drama surrounding the game’s conclusion as Marsh’s resulting free throw was the first of five straight points rattled off at the charity stripe by St John’s to end the contest.
The decisive 9-0 finish somewhat mirrored Sonics’ 11-4 start to the game where Marsh had a stretch where he scored seven of St John’s nine points in a three-minute span.
But the prolific forward struggled mightily against opposing big man Kurt Elias thereafter, and Pinelands rallied behind a series of jumpers from Corey McDonald.
With Pinelands still missing grieving star Jeremy Gill and Sonics swingman Ramon Simmons struggling from the field, the two sides subsequently failed to live up to the rematch of last month’s first-round series.
St John’s threatened briefly by opening up a 24-17 second-quarter lead on the back of Whittaker’s surge off the bench before Pinelands rallied to take a 30-29 halftime cushion following a series of open court baskets from Rico Thorpe.
The wheels, though, appeared to be coming off Pinelands’ wagon following technicals picked up by McDonald and Vanderpool, but Sonics still never managed to shake their playoff counterparts.
Kellman and Simmons both finished with 15 points, Marsh scored 14 and Whittaker added 12. For Pinelands, McDonald and Vanderpool each had 14 points while Elias scored 12.
Earlier, Station Hill squandered all but two of a 16-point second-half lead before surviving a furious Warriors rally in a tense 68-65 victory.
Kelvin Patterson scored 18 points and Jason Smith added 16 as the Cavs built a 43-27 cushion midway through the third quarter after holding Warriors to just six second-quarter points.
They even led by as many as 13 (52-39) with nine minutes to play before Nicholai Williams and Daniel Durant mounted a huge fourth-quarter comeback to pull Warriors within two (67-65).
Warriors had a chance to tie with seconds remaining, but they missed an open Randy Simmons behind the arc in favour of two botched layups from Kareem Farrell and Kevin John.
Williams led all scorers with 28 points while Simmons finished with 13.