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Long wait over for Pinelands

Justin Marville

Long wait over for Pinelands

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Only a real super team would be worthy of such a heroic comeback.
It’s been 12 long years, but the wait in Pinelands is no more. Their squad of stars finally delivered that elusive league title with a decisive 65-62 Game 5 thriller over defending Lumber Company LSC in the Co-operators General Insurance Premier League basketball finals on Saturday.
The scene was one of pure pandemonium, with a sea of supporters swarming the Barbados Community College gym after Pinelands ran out the clock for a victory that capped their double-crown season – and the most memorable of rallies.
It came as the end to a stunning third straight win in this series for a star-studded side that looked anything but special while falling into a 0-2 finals deficit for the second year in succession.
But the super team – the one that recently endured the deaths of former stars Kirk Patrick and Andrew Thorpe – was truly heroic when it mattered most, staving off a threatening third-quarter run, before putting the clamps down on an LSC offence that managed just five points over the final 5:31.
Absolutely nothing separated the two up to that point, with centre Sydney “Bouncer” Rowe hitting a rare midrange jumper to tie the game at 57 following four different lead changes to start the quarter.
However, Lakers’ sets disintegrated into a series of Andre Boadu pin-downs in the paint, and Pinelands duly took a two-possession lead (61-57) via a lay-up from Ramon Simmons and Charles Vanderpool’s jumper.
Boadu did LSC no favours either, blowing four crucial free throws in succession down the stretch, before Adrian Allman missed a trey from the corner to leave LSC trailing 64-60 with 30 seconds left.
Rowe managed to force a jump ball off the ensuing rebound, prior to driving for a quick two that got Lakers within two with 15 seconds remaining.
But Jeremy Gill answered with two free throws at the other end, only for LSC wing Ian Alexander to run up the floor and needlessly rush a heavily-contested trey that he air-balled with eight seconds still left on the clock.
It proved the anti-climactic finish to a wild winner-takes-all decider that started with more questions than answers again, with the mystery still revolving around the absence of LSC’s overseas-based point guard Andre Lockhart.
The contest, while missing the country’s best player, wasn’t lacking for drama as no one led by double digits in the fifth straight nail-biter in the series.
Pinelands did threaten though, leading by seven twice in the second quarter after Gill’s coast-to-coast lay-up split a pair of Ramon Simmons triples heading into the halftime break (37-30).
However, Alexander went on a personal 5-0 run to start the second half capped by a huge tip slam, helping LSC survive another pair of Simmons treys and tie the scores at 49.
Subsequent foul trouble to both Daniel Lovell and Halley Franklyn also set back Pinelands further, and LSC seemed on their way to yet another championship when they inevitably took a 52-51 lead on Alexander’s jumper in the fourth.
Gill immediately hit two free throws though, then neatly spun off another defender in transition to set up two more shots from the charity stripe that kept LSC at bay.
Simmons led all scorers with 18 points. Gill, who was named the finals MVP, added 13 points, while Vanderpool and Junior Moore each scored 11. For LSC, Birkett had 14 points, and Alexander and King scored 11 apiece.