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LSC hold off Pine

Justin Marville

LSC hold off Pine

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Turns out the champs really aren’t done.
?Ramon Simmons’ hot streak surely is though.
Lumber Company LSC are up one now, as Simmons missed two go-ahead treys in the final seconds, including a potential game-winner to hand the champs Saturday’s last-second 71-69 Game 1 win over Pinelands in the Co-operators General Insurance Premier League basketball finals at the Barbados Community College.
It was the thrilling finish to the opener of a championship series rematch that LSC had already been written off in following a pair of disheartening regular season losses to the star-studded Pine.
And the heavy odds-on favourites were entering the match with another alleged advantage after Simmons hit a record 22 triples over the side’s last three fixtures.
So much for those odds.
Simmons literally came up short when it mattered most, going two for ten from deep while missing his last four three-point shots, capped by that pair of would-be game-winners.
This was after Pinelands hung around in a game they had no business winning, with Andre Elias’ free throws turning the contest into a one-possession game (70-67), and Jeremy Gill then going coast-to-coast to cut the deficit to just one with 22 seconds left.
Mark Bridgeman only further left the door open for them too by splitting a pair of free throws after taking just a second off the clock.
But Simmons couldn’t cash in, having needlessly settled for a contested step-back trey that hit the side of the glass and went out of bounds with eight seconds remaining.
He was given a shot at redemption when LSC turned over the ensuing inbound play, only to see his wide open look from the right wing miss the mark at the final horn.
The finish was fitting for a second half that LSC appeared to be in control of but still never led by more than ten (40-30) during a menacing third-quarter run.
Even before then the champs looked to have put their stamp on the proceedings, with Ian Alexander holding Gill scoreless in the first quarter all while Keefe Birkett either scored or assisted on an array of jumpers.
Pinelands did themselves no favours either by refusing to put the ball in the post to Charles Vanderpool despite watching the MVP favourite start the game going six of seven from the field.
The result was a 32-21 second-quarter hole, which they still managed to reduce to three after eight unanswered points bridging the end of the first half and the start of the third quarter.
However, Birkett fed Alexander for a short jumper, before Adrian Allman hit back-to-back triples to quickly put the champs ahead 40-30.
But starting centre Andre Boadu subsequently picked up his fourth foul, then Alexander swiftly followed him to the bench with similar foul trouble, allowing Gill and a suddenly hot Simmons right back in the contest.
Pinelands actually led 53-51 following a 12-4 finish to the quarter, and kept within a possession for the majority of the fourth while trading baskets back and forth.
However, Vanderpool blew an uncontested lay-up underneath before Alexander had five straight points to put LSC on top 70-65 with 1:33 left.
Alexander had 19 points and Birkett added 12 for LSC, while Vanderpool led the Pine with 19 points, with Gill and Simmons both scoring 14.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is slated for Thursday at the same venue.?