Patriots rally against Clapham
Clapham’s big return trip to basketball’s top flight has been put on standby.
The First Division finals are heading to a decisive Game 3, as Justin Gaskin hit a huge go-ahead jumper just seconds before Omari Jackson had the game-winning free throw in Patriots’ last-ditch 65-64 thriller over Clapham Bulls at the YMCA on Monday.
The finish was one fitting for a finals game, with Patriots barely surviving a wild back-and-forth contest to extend the series when Jackson put them up for good with just four seconds left.
And this was only moments before Clapham looked certain of gaining promotion back to the Premier League after rallying from another double-digit deficit (33-21) to take an unlikely one-point lead (63-62) on a Mark Foster free throw inside the final minute.
But Gaskin came down at the other end and calmly rose above both Foster and Alvin Padmore to hit a clutch pull-up jumper from the baseline.
Shane Rock locked the scores at 64 when he split a pair of free throws moments later, though, only to watch Foster needlessly foul Jackson on a three-point attempt with just four seconds on the clock.
However, Jackson left the door open by missing two of those three free throws, but Taurean King hit Foster with the outlet pass instead of national point guard Rahiim Gibbons and Clapham never got off a shot before the final whistle.
It was just the second set of heroics from Jackson, who first made his mark by combining with Andre Stoute for 18 second-quarter points as part of a “small-ball” bench unit that spurred a 21-11 Patriots run (33-21).
Clapham quickly rallied on the other side of the break after Foster started with three successive drives before Gibbons hit two go-ahead three-pointers (42-40) to cap the third-quarter comeback.
The teams then traded baskets furiously until Stefan Brathwaite’s baskets in the paint helped spark another surge from the bench that put Patriots up 62-56 with under two minutes left.
But Shane Rock was left open on two possessions too many, as the previously cold off-guard hit back-to-back jumpers including a game-tying triple with 52 seconds remaining.
Foster then seemingly gave Clapham the lead for good after splitting a pair of free throws, but the veteran forward couldn’t alter Gaskin’s big shot and then inexplicably hit Jackson while he was in the act of shooting.
Jackson led all scorers with 17 points, while Andre Stoute and Justin Gaskin chipped in with 14 and 10 points, respectively, for Patriots. Gibbons top-scored for Clapham with 15 points, Rock added 14 while Foster and Padmore both finished with 11.
Game 3 is scheduled for tonight at the same venue.