If George Town Sports Club is to become repeat champion they will have to get through Shaolin first.
On Thursday night both teams secured their spots in the finals with impressive victories.
In the first game of the night, George Town Sports Club won a nail-biter of a game over an inspired Wolves team by the final score of 75-72.
In the second game, Shaolin’s powerful offense had no answer as they beat down Blazers 82-68.
Some 50 fans were at and around the Digicel Court to catch all the playoff action. They made sure their presence was known as they voiced their support and chanted for their teams almost from the 6:30pm start.
One of the storylines on the night was the absence of Wolves captain Andres Kirchman. Kirchman injured his foot in the first game of the playoffs.
Without Center Kirchman in the middle, Wolves struggled to snag loose balls and missed shots. George Town relished the second-chance shots and scored on most occasions.
In spite of Kirchman’s absence the Wolves were in the game going into the final three minutes. Gary ‘Butcher’ McLaughlin and company were determined to force a game three next week.
Meanwhile George Town was doing its best to fight fatigue. A seven man roster can only field fresh legs for so long and it was obvious in those moments that George Town could have used the extra players.
The waning minutes of the game were a microcosm of the match. Though Kirchman was absent and they could not get a rebounding edge, the Wolves refused to go away. Meanwhile George Town struggled to press the advantage and put the squad away.
After a couple of clutch free throws Lloyd Samuels dribbled out the clock and celebrated with his team-mates. The final score was 75-72 in favour of the defending champs.
George Town’s Jonathan Mitchell made all the difference as he posted 28 points and nine rebounds. Big man Antonio Thompson also chipped in with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Meanwhile, two excellent double-double performances could not save the Wolves from defeat. Gary McLaughlin had 25 points and 11 rebounds. Team-mate Earl Allen clogged the middle for 16 points and 15 rebounds.
Before game’s end, Shaolin and Blazers players could be seen warming up around the court and in the streets. Both squads were hungry for a win and could be seen psyching themselves up.
Both teams had their jitters in the early going and there were silly mistakes. The first half saw two technical fouls and turnovers, mostly for the Blazers. On the other hand, Shaolin just could not stop Kevin Maxwell down low.
Shaolin main man Colin Anglin was effective in spurts. Though he faced foul trouble, Anglin would have a good game with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
By half-time Shaolin built up a double digit lead. They came out in the third with hot shooting hands and made sure they didn’t give up the lead.
In the second half, Shaolin seemed to never miss. They ran the fast break when they could and spotted up for jump shots all over the floor.
Blazers struggled to keep pace. Though Maxwell had no answer inside, the squad just could not get anything going on the perimeter. With three point shots hard to come by, the Blazers soon faced leads in excess of 15 points which they struggled to cut down.
When the final whistle blew, a relieved Shaolin walked off the court victorious over Blazers. The final score was 82-68.
West Bay forward Jerome Narcisse was key for Shaolin. He had 27 points and five rebounds. Fellow big man Colin Bodden had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
For the Blazers, Center Kevin Maxwell was the heart of the team as he posted 22 points and 12 rebounds. Team-mate Perry Levy chipped in with 14 points and three assists.
Game one of the championship final will take place tomorrow at 6:30pm at the Digicel Court. Game two will take place on Thursday and if need be game three will be Sunday.
Colin Anglin of Shaolin summed up his team’s performance.
‘The game went well though we weren’t able to shut down their big man. However we stopped their penetration and got out on their shooters.
‘We didn’t want them hurting us from distance. Last game Morgan [Bodden of Blazers] had plenty of threes. We also wanted to win the battle of the boards.’