Pinelands beat champs again
Make that round two as well.
The super team may have made its most powerful statement yet, as Smalta Pinelands survived a menacing fourth-quarter rally to upend Lumber Company LSC again via Saturday’s 74-64 victory in the Co-operators General Insurance Basketball Premier League at the Wildey Gym.
It was a resounding result to say the least, with the star-studded Pine side capping a rare season sweep of the defending champs, who are barely a year removed from blanking them in the finals.
More importantly, the win gave Pinelands a leg up on their rivals in the race for play-offs’ top spot, and a chance to avoid a first-round match against a Cavs side to whom they lost both regular season contests.
They very nearly surrendered this game too, having squandered all but one of a 14-point fourth-quarter lead (60-46), before LSC had three shots at the go-ahead basket with four minutes to play.
But the Pine dodged a bullet when Keefe Birkett missed a baseline jumper, then Mark Bridgeman further let them off the hook by settling for a quick trey, before Ian Alexander did likewise in transition on the very next possession.
Charles Vanderpool wasted no time in making the champs pay either, turning the long rebound off Alexander’s miss into a fast-break layup and then making good on a short jumper just seconds later (67-62).
The late-game errors didn’t stop there though, as LSC further doomed their cause with successive turnovers, which were converted into two more fast-break baskets including Jeremy Gill’s “and-one” lay-up.
It was the tale of the tape for a surprisingly sloppy LSC team that couldn’t deal with the Pine’s length at either end, or their opponents’ aggressiveness in jumping screens while falling behind by nine (30-21) at the half.
Their inability to keep Charles Vanderpool off the offensive boards didn’t help matters any, and the subsequent extra shots led to a nifty Gill euro-step lay-up plus a three-pointer (49-35) on the other side of the break.
Even Daniel Lovell got in on the act, stripping Birkett en route to an “and-one” reverse that put Pinelands ahead by as many as 15 (56-41) before the Pine maintained that cushion in the fourth.
However, LSC turned the defensive intensity to force some steals of their own, which Birkett turned into a pair of long jumpers that sandwiched Bridgeman’s huge one-handed throw-down.
And they weren’t done just yet, with Alexander splitting a pair of free throws and tipping in a missed shot to pull them within one (63-62).
Gill had a game-high 23 points while Vanderpool added 16 points for Pinelands, who can wrap up the top spot with a win tomorrow over Cougars – who they would also open the play-offs against. Birkett led LSC with 16 points while Alexander and Adrian Allman both scored 14.