Bulls one step away
Don’t look now, but Clapham have but one step left on their road back to the Premier League.
The Bulls surely couldn’t have asked any more of their backcourt, as Rahiim Gibbons and Shane Rock combined for 55 points, including 18 of a decisive 22-7 finish that capped Saturday’s 76-61 Game 1 victory over Patriots in the First Division basketball finals at the YMCA.
It was a tour-de-force, to say the least, from the two cousins, whose fathers (brothers Barry and Junior Rock) may be able to recall similar joint efforts a couple decades ago when they too shared Clapham’s backcourt.
But they’d be hard-pressed to remember one as significant, considering Gibbons and Rock accounted for all but six of their team’s 44 second-half points to put Clapham a game away from returning to the top flight – where Bulls previously spent a record 28 straight seasons.
And this was right after Patriots led by as many as 11 (37-26) in the second quarter on the back of three jumpers from reserve wing Omari Jackson.
However, Bulls scored six unanswered points to close the half, before Gibbons rattled off seven of his own on the other side of the break prior to feeding Rock for a go-ahead jumper (41-40).
The only thing that seemed to interrupt their third-quarter flurry was the whistle, and a loose Alvin Padmore drive, as Rock added a floater and another jumper before Gibbons sank his second three-pointer of the period.
Yet Patriots still tied the game at 54 early in the fourth, with forward Stefan Brathwaite putting-back a missed shot and then scoring on a short hook to seemingly end the run.
But it was Patriots’ resistance that was done, as the Husbands side managed a mere seven points over the game’s final seven and a half minutes.
Clapham went ahead for good on Gibbons’ subsequent pull-up three-pointer, which was followed quickly by a steal leading to an “and-one” play off Jehnard Brewster’s turnover.
Jackson briefly halted the surge on another jumper only to see Rock score four straight free throws, a jumper and then the back-breaking lay-up (70-59) with two minutes left.
Gibbons duly sealed the deal at the charity stripe when Patriots looked to extend the game.
The finish was certainly a lot different from Gibbons’ circumspect start to the contest, when the national player looked anything but while forcing a series of pull-up jumpers.
Early jumpers from Neil Yearwood and Justin Gaskin spurred an opening 11-4 Patriots run, before Jackson came off the bench to hit jumpers of his own that sandwiched some post moves from Damien Gaskin underneath (37-26).
Gibbons led all scorers with 35 points and Rock added 20, while Julian Walcott was the lone Patriots player in double digits with 14 points.
Clapham can close out the series and gain promotion to the Premier League by winning Game 2, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight at the same venue.