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Lodge seize KO crown

JUSTIN MARVILLE, [email protected]

Lodge seize KO crown

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From zeros to heroes. The Lodge are all the way back.

Rachad Hall had ten of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, including a clutch triple, as Lodge captured their first basketball title in 20 years via yesterday’s 69-65 thriller over Combermere in the Massy United Insurance Knockout Competition final.

It capped a truly great turnaround for a once prominent programme that fell right to the bottom of the pit earlier this decade by going five straight years without a single victory.

But Lodge climbed their way back to the top, and in grand style, too, having shocked the star-studded preseason favourites that featured the country’s best junior player in Kiserian Adams.

And Hall was at the centre of it all, accounting for seven of his team’s last ten points, including the go-ahead score and the deciding trey with 23 seconds remaining.

With the scores locked at 59, the Premier League guard broke the deadlock with a huge banker in the lane before stripping Tariq Inniss moments later for an uncontested layup (63-59).

Hall then appeared to seal the deal on Lodge’s next possession, answering Adams’ lefty finish with a deep buzzer-beating triple right over Makaari Jones to restore the two-score lead (66-61).

Adams hit one of his own on the very next play, though, (66-64), and had a chance to tie the game at the line after Hall missed two free throws at the other end.

However, Adams literally came up short, clanging the second free throw off the front iron with 12 seconds remaining.

Kemar Benn left the door open by also splitting a pair, but Combermere never got another shot off as Jones turned over the ball trying to find Adams in transition.

The dramatic last-second finish served as the fascinating preview for tomorrow’s league semi-finals between the same two teams in Waterford.

It also served as a heart-breaking end to a valiant rally that saw Cawmere trail by as many as nine (54-45) in the fourth quarter before David Walkes threatened to take over the game.

With Adams being denied the ball by Hall, Walkes simply put his head down and made his way to the front of the ring for eight quick points, including the game-tying basket (59 all) with 1:50 left.

The run was similar to Cawmere’s opening 16-5 burst, in which the favourites ran out to a quick 11-point lead by attacking in transition.

This time it was Adams who did the damage, as the gifted swingman hit a trey, a lefty scoop shot and three free throws to sandwich buckets from Nicholas Hoyte.

But twin towers Tre Ward and Kemar Benn imposed their will on the offensive glass, which led to several second-chance points for a suddenly aggressive Hall.

Lodge closed the first quarter on a 10-1 run before trading baskets back and forth for the ensuing second period.

And they took control on the other side of the break, executing their half-court offence to perfection to find open treys for Hall, Kurt Lambert and Anthony Maynard.

Jones tried to keep pace with a series of drives but Lodge still transformed a 31-27 deficit into a telling 52-43 lead as Cawmere struggled, with Adams being harassed all over the floor by Hall.

Ward had 16 points and Maynard ten, while Walkes led Combermere with 15 and Adams and Jones each scored 15. (JM)