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Thriller keeps Sonics alive


Thriller keeps Sonics alive

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BASKETBALL’S ALREADY WILD knockouts just went up another notch.
Title holders Urban Vybz St John’s Sonics are still alive, if only just, as Damien Waithe hit a pair of go-ahead free throws with 4.5 seconds left to cap Tuesday’s last-second 82-81 thriller over Cougars in the Co-operators General Insurance Premier League knockout at the Wildey Gym.
It was but another gripping first-round result fitting for a competition that has already witnessed Warriors’ similar one-point stunner over Cavs and Warriors’ shocking upset of Lumber Company LSC.
But this one had more twists than a suspense thriller, with the contest featuring an incredible ten lead changes in the fourth quarter alone – including four inside the final minute.
And that was mere moments after Sonics went up by 13 (56-43) on the back of 14-4 run fuelled almost single-handedly by forward Akeem Marsh.
It’s just that his opposite number Ricardo Jemmott was just as good, if not better while engineering an immediate and near identical 16-2 response.
From there, the two centre pieces treated the fourth quarter like a game of horse, trying to one up the other while trading baskets like punches in a prized title fight.
When Marsh seemingly got the better of the match-up with successive jumpers, Jemmott answered back with a pair of drives right at his counterpart.
Not even the final moments could separate the two, as Marsh got a steal and hit Waithe for a go-ahead lay-up (80-78) with 30.8 seconds left only to see Jemmott lock the game on two free throws just seconds later.
Cougars then got a break after Stefan Clarke blew two free throws of his own at the other end, while Damian Nicholls split a pair to put them ahead 81-80 with 8.8 ticks left.
However, Nicholls inexplicably gave the lead right back, needlessly fouling a non-threatening Waithe, who calmly sank two shots from charity line.
Cougars still had another shot at victory, but the inbounds play run for Nicholas King ended up in him having to settle for a contested trey at the buzzer.
The enthralling finish was simply reminiscent of the back and forth start to a contest that initially featured little to no defence.
Cougars eventually struck first, with Jemmott and reigning MVP Adrian Stewart leading a brief 7-0 run (17-10) before St John’s hammered back when Jemmott briefly went to the pine.
The back and forth persisted in the second quarter as Cougars had problems dealing with Sonics’ full court pressure while St John’s failed to get back in transition off missed shots and turnovers.
But Marsh threatened to blow the game wide open in the third, hitting two quick jumpers and a lay-up before assisting on a Clarke trey (56-43).
Marsh finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds while Jemmott led Cougars with 28 and 16.
The win put Sonics in a semi-final against Smalta Pinelands, who hit 14 triples in a 95-45 rout of Combined Schools Tridents. Jeremy Gill and Ramon Simmons scored 29 and 22 points respectively for Pinelands while Orion Seale led Tridents with 10 points.