Big Four reach the semis
The big four are through to the final four. The Co-operators General Insurance Premier League Basketball Knockout Competition certainly stuck to script as all four title contenders advanced with contrasting wins in Sunday’s first round at the Barbados Community College.
Reigning knockout kings Station Hill Cavaliers set up a play-off rematch with Orange 3 Pinelands by dismissing St John’s Sonics 90-69 before Hilton Barbados Warriors routed Combined Schools Tridents 105-76 to book a semi-final showdown against Lumber Company Lakers.
It wasn’t as easy for the defending league champions Lakers, who held off Burger King Clapham Bulls 84-66 before Pan American International Insurance Warrens gave the Pine all they could handle before losing 82-72.
Pinelands needed every bit of their star power down the stretch, as national forward Charles Vanderpool scored nine straight points in the fourth quarter to key a late 17-6 game-clinching run.
With the Pine clinging to a three-point lead (65-62), Vanderpool took matters into his own hands by cleaning up a missed shot and then quickly following up with a decisive jumper.
He wasn’t done just yet, though, finishing over six-foot-ten centre Pearson Griffith for the “hoop and the harm” before returning to score two clutch free throws (74-67).
Griffith split a pair of his own free throws at the next end, only to watch as Junior Moore converted a tough baseline drive mere seconds later.
Moore’s fellow Barbados player Ramon Simmons then drilled a huge trey and national captain Jeremy Gill sealed the deal on an offensive rebound the very next play (82-68).
It proved the decisive finish to a wild back and forth contest that neither side had previously led by more than seven points.
Warrens actually held a 46-45 advantage early in the third quarter after Griffith scored six straight out of the post as part of a lead-changing 12-4 rally to start the second half.
But Gill was fouled shooting a three-pointer and Vanderpool had a pair of dunks to restore Pinelands’ seven-point cushion (61-54) at the end of the third.
However, Warrens just refused to go away, as Greig Springer converted two drives and a pair of free throws (65-62) after Manuel Alleng got the rally started with a deft floater.
Vanderpool led all scorers with 19 points, Gill added 18 and Moore had 13 for the Pine. Springer top-scored for Warrens with 15 points, Griffith finished with 14 and Alleng had 11.
Lakers also needed a similar late-game push to get past a pesky Clapham side after Hussein Edwards hit back-to-back triples to pull Bulls within eight (62-54) early in the fourth.
Jimal Singh simply responded with a pair of his own long-range bombs, taking advantage of crisp ball movement to knock down two wide open three-pointers.
Reigning MVP Keefe Birkett drilled one, too, before fellow national starter John Jones followed with a put-back and three free throws to put Lakers up 77-60.
Lower division swingman Czario Bourne then hit two jump shots as well to sandwich a Birkett pull-up jumper before professional forward Kregg Jones announced his return with a thunderous two-handed throw-down.
Birkett ended with 17 points, John Jones scored 15 and Ormond Haynes chipped in with 13. Kelan Phillips led Clapham with 17 points and Halley Franklyn had 13.
Earlier, Granville Gittens scored 19 points to lead five players in double digits as Station Hill Cavaliers coasted despite a game-high 33 points from Sonics forward Romaine Lovell.
Talented young Warriors guard Justin Pile dropped a season-high 38 points against the schoolboys in a game that was never close. (JM)