Rookie leads Cavs over rival Lakers
The new kid on the block made quite the first impression in local basketball’s age-old rivalry.
Granville Gittens scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a late game-tying basket in regulation, as Station Hill Cavaliers squeezed out Thursday’s 69-65 season-opening win over Lumber Company Lakers in the Co-operators General Insurance Premier League.
It was an impressive debut to say the least for the American-born UWI student, who had 20 points coming off the bench in a heated rivalry game against a stacked defending champion side featuring four national players.
But they had no answer for the skilled forward, particularly early in the fourth quarter where Gittens poured in six straight points to help the reigning knockout kings claw out of a threatening seven-point hole.
And he wasn’t done there either, having returning late in the quarter to sink the game-tying turnaround jumper out of the post with 29 seconds left.
“This is kind of a bonus to have him with us because he was the one who approached us last October to come and play and I think as a young team we’re going to learn a lot from having such a high IQ player with his skill set around the team,” said head coach Adrian Craigwell.
Apparently Gittens was just getting started too, as he scored six quick points to sandwich a Jason Smith trey at the start of overtime to put Station Hill ahead 66-59.
However, Mark Bridgeman quickly answered with a reverse layup and two free throws before national teammate Kregg Jones made it 67-65 on a tip-in with 23 seconds remaining.
Anand Joseph-Thorne then left the door open by splitting free throws but Lakers sealed their own fate by failing to grab the ensuing defensive rebound.
It was just the latest close finish in a series full of them between the ardent adversaries, who’ve squared off in three league finals and four other knockout title contests, including last year’s thriller.
And this game had the makings of yet another instant classic, as neither perennial power led by double digits in a physical confrontation that had the atmosphere of a play-off contest and not a meaningless season opener.
Lakers did threaten late after reigning league MVP Keefe Birkett drilled a big triple to help them go up 47-40 in the fourth quarter.
But Gittens had those three straight buckets and another layup to spark a go-ahead 14-3 Cavs rally (54-50) alongside Darren Hunte and former Sonics forward Dwayne “Boo” Kellman.
However, national centre John Jones ended the run with a deep post move before Birkett came over the top of a screen to score what seemed to be the game-winning trey (56-54) with 41 seconds left.
Gittens calmly responded at the other end, though, faking to the middle before turning over his right shoulder towards the baseline for the game-tying jumper.
And he had a chance to win it in regulation after Bridgeman air-balled at the other end, but the last-second inbounds “alley-oop” pass was just off the mark.
Smith and Hunte finished with 11 and ten points, respectively, while Birkett led Lakers with 19 points and Bridgeman added 11 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
Earlier, Tremaine Shaw celebrated his return to his hometown side by scoring the go-ahead layup with 16 seconds left of Hilton Barbados Warriors’ narrow 50-49 victory over Pan American International Warrens.
Off-guards Justin Pile and Shaquan Newton led the way with 16 and 11 points, respectively, while Dario Cumberbatch was the lone Warrens player in double digits with ten. (JM)