Pine dismiss Challengers
SO FAR, so good.
It wasn’t all fantastic, but Smalta Pinelands’ new super team looked dominant all the same after holding Challengers to just 15 second half points en route to a season-opening 72-42 rout on Tuesday in basketball’s Co-operators General Insurance Premier League at the Wildey Gym.
The occasion was clearly a statement night for retooled title contenders, as Cougars used a similarly commanding effort in the last two quarters to dispatch a short-handed Warriors side 75-49.
But all eyes were definitely on the Pine for their first game up, following a busy offseason that led to the additions of Ramon Simmons, Junior Moore and Halley Franklyn.
And each arrival proved well worth the hype, at least in the absence of injured combo guard Jeremy Gill for a game where all three were pivotal in the team’s 38-15 finish to what was previously a close contest.
When Simmons and Franklyn weren’t jumping passing lanes and forcing turnovers, it was Moore getting out in transition for uncontested layups or cleaning up the offensive glass underneath.
That combination resulted in six unanswered Pine points to start the third quarter, turning a 34-27 halftime cushion into a telling 13-point advantage.
Pinelands weren’t done yet though, as Charles Vanderpool’s assault on the paint proved simply too much for the smaller Challengers frontcourt to contend with. Challengers didn’t help their cause either by giving up constant fast-break buckets after the Pine’s full court pressure successfully took the ball out of Alwyn Lovell’s hands.
At one point Moore, Vanderpool and Rico Thorpe were basically laying-up by themselves before a single Challengers player could even cross the half far less turn around to recover in transition.
Pinelands went ahead by as much as 21 (54-33) in the period before stretching that lead to 30 in the ensuing fourth when Challengers all but conceded defeat against that oppressive press.
It was a far cry from the initial part of the first period where Challengers jumped out to a stunning 16-9 lead on the back of Lovell’s hot start.
However, that lead was short-lived, with Pinelands closing the quarter on a pair of Simmons driving layups before he returned on the other side of the whistle with a fast-break jam that gave the Pine a lead they never relinquished.
Lovell threatened to keep Challengers in the contest with two tough baskets in traffic, but Thorpe and Simmons put a swift end to that rally with back-to-back treys before the former’s open court basket put Pinelands ahead 34-27 at the half.
Simmons, Thorpe and Vanderpool all scored 15 points, Moore added 14 points and 13 rebounds while Franklyn finished with 11 points. Lovell top-scored for Challengers with 16 points while Rudy Howard added ten.
In the night cap, Cougars blew open a close one-point contest by outscoring a seven-man Warriors team 43-16 over the final 20 minutes, even as MVP Adrian Stewart stunningly sat out the entire second half.
Warriors actually held a 33-32 half-time lead, and this was after falling behind by 13 (22-9) inside the first eight minutes when newly-acquired Cougars guard Terrence Roach threatened to turn the game into a laugher.
Kenny Matthews subsequently turned the contest on its head with much-needed energy off the bench which resulted in some timely jumpers and a driving layup before Daniel Durant’s steal and layup put Warriors up by one at the break.
It was about all the resistance they would muster though, even against a third-quarter unit that didn’t feature starters Stewart, Ricardo Jemmott and Godfrey Leacock, as Selwyn Brooks’ trey and fast-break layup gave Cougars the momentum to start the third quarter.
Jemmott and Leacock’s subsequent re-entry then truly took the game away from Warriors after the former scored a big basket in traffic while the latter sank consecutive treys to close the quarter.
The rout was then on when Jemmot and Sean Gaskin took turns dominating the paint, before Warriors got hit with three straight technicals from official Glyne Clarke towards the latter part of the fourth quarter.
Gaskin and Brooks finished with 13 points apiece, Jemmott had 11 points and 10 boards while Roach scored ten. Matthews led Warriors with 19 points.