The Blazers’ playoff future is secure in large part thanks to Stephen Shaw.
Shaw led his Esso Blazers team past Future SC 82-76 on Saturday.
The game was played at the Digicel Court off Eastern Avenue. It was also the final regular-season match for the Cayman Islands Basketball Association Boys U19 League.
Even the game had a late start and could have been better organized and the scoring system malfunctioned, nothing would keep Blazers off the court.
Shaw led his team in scoring dropping 24 points. He would lead all players in rebounds on the night grabbing 17 boards.
The tall and powerful centre has been the heart of the team throughout the season and showed it with his stellar play. He wiped the glass with authority and put himself in good position to score.
Shaw would be at the centre of an Esso team that thrived in the half-court throughout the night under the watchful eyes of coaches Dion Ebanks and Shawn Pitterson.
Shaw had plenty of help from fellow big man Brandon Glasgow. Glasgow had 17 points and was a force defensively, getting three steals and five blocks.
Both had plenty of support from role players Michael Daley and Patrick Barnes. Daley would chip in 11 points while Barnes poured in 13 points.
It would be no surprise then that Esso would be in control for much of the game. They were ahead for the first three quarters, establishing an eight-point lead by halftime and a 12-point lead going into the fourth and final quarter.
At that point Future would make a fervent rally. They posted 30 points in the quarter with Esso getting 22 and the score would end up being much closer than it was throughout.
Future did make the game interesting the whole way however. They would show good poise on defense and got in transition whenever they could.
It didn’t hurt that Future would get the rebounding edge and force much defensive errors. The side had 45 rebounds, six more than Esso, while grabbing 19 steals.
They stayed in the game in large part due to big man Nicholas Roberts. Roberts would be huge, leading all players in scoring with 28 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
Roberts had help courtesy of a stand-out game from Michael Blackburn. Blackburn stepped up big-time with 15 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
Nigel Ebanks also made a large and unexpected contribution with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Yet Future would fall short of the upset due largely to the absence of star player Jonothan Powery and sharp-shooter Alex Ebanks.
Powery lost his touch, getting only four points and shot 33 percent from the charity stripe. In Future’s two wins this season he averaged 13.5 points.
Ebanks was regarded as one of the team’s deadliest three point marksmen coming into the match. But he would muster just six points, including zero three pointers.
In fact Future’s lacklustre shooting produced no three pointers on the night while Esso had three.
Moreover Future couldn’t take advantage of Esso’s mistakes. The side had 26 shots from the free throw line and made only 12 of those. Those missing 14 points would have made all the difference.
With the win Esso finish the regular season on top of the league at 8-2. They will face the fourth best team in the league in team Redemption in the first round of the playoffs.
With the loss Future are eliminated from playoff contention. They end their season with a record of 2-8, 10 points and tied with Wolves at the bottom of the league standings.
The rest of the standings see Tarheels in second with 18 points and Silver Bullets third at 7-3.
The playoffs began on Tuesday evening. The finals are set for this Saturday 13 December at 7:45pm.