Cougars snatch final spot
Cougars in. Warriors, Sonics out.
All that’s left to be decided now is seeding, as Cougars duly grabbed the fourth and final play-off spot following Saturday’s routine 73-63 win over Warriors in the Co-operators General Insurance Basketball Premier League at the Wildey Gym.
It proved the stamp for a second successive postseason appearance for a Hothersal side that never even sniffed the play-offs before last year’s historic debut.
But there was no champagne around, far less a coke, with Cougars not even acknowledging the moment at the end of a game they would’ve had to lose by at least 27 points to keep Warriors in the postseason picture.
And Cougars seemed almost willing to oblige, at least for the first eight minutes as all they could manage was a solitary Selwyn Brooks basket while swiftly falling behind by 12 points without Adrian Stewart in the line-up.
The running team was the one being run all over this time as Warriors raced out in transition for the easiest of fast-break buckets in the most lopsided of starts this season.
That, though, was as much success Warriors would enjoy on the night once Cougars scored six straight points to end the quarter as part of a game-tying 19-5 run (23-23).
What merely started off as a pair of Damien Nicholls putbacks quickly went downhill from there, picking up steam when Godfrey Leacock followed with two of his own and a nifty euro-step move.
But Cougars weren’t satisfied with just evening the scores, far from, with Brooks putting them ahead to stay with a huge trey before transition scores from Nicholls and Nicholas King cemented a 30-27 half-time lead.
There weren’t done yet either, even after Warriors briefly threatened when Nicholai Williams and Kenny Matthews hit back-to-back jumpers on the other side of the break.
Brooks simply put an end to the rally with another triple and a lefty lay-up, before Nicholls went back doing his thing on the offensive glass to spark yet another run.
Warriors surely didn’t help their cause any by needlessly coughing up the rock, as each ensuing turnover was gladly converted into open court lay-ups by Leacock and Ricardo Jemmott.
King then added a trey for good measure, and then Brooks capped things off with a spectacular no-look pass to a dunking Jemmott in transition as Cougars went up by as many as 16 (63-47).
Warriors did manage to get as close as ten (67-57) following a series of baskets from Paul Grant on the left wing, but it proved all too inconsequential in the latter moments of the fourth quarter.
Nicholls finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds, Brooks also scored 15 points while Jemmott added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Leacock scored 14.
Williams, Grant and Trevor Simmons all had 12 points for Warriors, who got a further 11 from Matthews.
In the nightcap, Keefe Birkett had a game-high 25 points as defending champs Lumber Company LSC moved percentage points ahead of Smalta Pinelands for the top seed in an otherwise meaningless 79-55 rout of Urban Vybz St John’s Sonics.
With Cougars’ earlier win already knocking Sonics out of playoff contention, St John’s only had pride to play for, and not even that they could handle while being held to just 11 third-quarter points.
Birkett had 11 points as part of that game-changing 26-11 run that turned a 31-29 cushion into a 57-40 blowout. Adrian Allman added 14 points and Ormond Haynes scored 11 while Shane Whittaker led Sonics with 17.