George Town is one game closer to being the repeat champions of local basketball.
On Tuesday George Town Sports Club beat Shaolin in game one of the Cayman Islands Basketball Association Senior Men’s League Finals.
The tension surrounding the opening tip was heavy. The crowd of some 50 spectators quietly filed into the bleachers by 6:30pm. The players looked nervous as they shot around and warmed up. The referees and the scorer’s table were silent and focused.
In short the game was as serious as all championship games should be. The play on the court would serve to reiterate those feelings even more.
The first quarter would be a tight one. For two teams trying to accomplish two different schemes, it makes sense they would need time to figure the other out.
Shaolin tried hard to cause fast breaks and get big man Sebastian Sache and others easy baskets in transitions. Meanwhile GT looked to keep things to a slower pace as forward Eric McField led the charge on the defensive end.
Going into the second quarter Shaolin had a small lead of six points. With the score reading 25-19, GT felt encouraged they were still in it in spite of the game’s tempo being in Shaolin’s favour.
The second quarter saw more fast break opportunities, this time with GT getting in on the act. Antonio Thompson of GT had a bevy of layup chances and even slammed home a monstrous dunk to the delight of the crowd.
However Shaolin were in the driver’s seat and constantly were off to the races. The battle for rebounds was tight but Shaolin often limited GT to one shot per possession. Among the big men cleaning the glass for Shaolin was Jerome Narcisse and Phillip Wilson.
Yet by half-time Shaolin’s lead had actually decreased. The score read 43-38 with Shaolin enjoying only a five point lead. GT seemed to have a limitless supply of energy on both ends of the court as players like Mike Morgan and Ariel Whittaker were everywhere.
This supreme level of fitness and passion would serve GT well in the second half. In the course of a quarter the game would change for Shaolin.
Defense would emerge as a dominating factor. Every Shaolin possession would see pressure from GT. GT constantly double-teamed Shaolin guards and caused chaos, resulting in turnovers and easy baskets in transition.
Shaolin did not back down from the challenge and stifled GT’s big men down low. Though GT was being limited to perimeter play, they did not flinch. In fact they excelled as Lloyd Samuels and Thompson all launched a barrage of jump shots and treys.
Going into the fourth period the score was 64-63 in favour of GT. The crowd, mostly GT supporters, were cheering loudly as the squad stepped onto the court for the final 10 minutes of the game.
Both teams responded and simply exploded in the fourth quarter. Each squad would end up scoring more than 75 points in the game.
For Shaolin role players like Luigi Moxam flashed considerable skills as they slashed to the basket and knocked down jumpers. Meanwhile GT looked like a well-oiled machine as Jason Campbell and company instinctively shredded the Shaolin defense for points in the lane and from behind the arch on a constant basis.
In the end GT’s slow-paced style grinded out Shaolin’s patience and the game in the half court. Shaolin were desperate for points and their hurry led to mistakes. Shaolin’s constant fouls made the last two minutes of the game essentially a parade at the charity stripe.
However Jason Campbell would prove to be cool under pressure. With some clutch free throws he would seal the win for GT.
When the final whistle blew, GT walked off victorious by a final score of 90-80. Shaolin slumped onto their bench and scratched their heads trying to figure out what went wrong.
The sentiments from Shaolin were best summed up by Anglin who was heard saying: ‘well guys we’ll just have to take this to three games that’s all.’
Meanwhile the crowd had mixed reactions. The few Shaolin supporters that were there booed and angrily taunted the referees. Meanwhile the GT fans were ecstatic and applauded incessantly.
The statistics for the match would show the stars shined when it mattered most. For GT Samuels led the team with 25 points and eight rebounds. Thompson chipped in with 24 points, six rebounds and five assists.
On the other hand Shaolin’s stars gave it their all. Narcisse had 25 points and eight rebounds while Anglin had 19 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
Game two was Thursday night at the Digicel Courts. A full report of that game and game three (if necessary) will come out in next week’s Compass.