Hoopsters half way home

Local basketball is already at its mid-way point.

With less than a month left in the Domino’s Pizza Men’s Basketball League regular season teams are slated to be extra focused.

Tonight should see glimpses of playoff intensity at the Cayman Islands Basketball Association Court off Eastern Avenue.

At 6:15pm there will be a premier clash between the league frontrunners in the Esso Blazers and the DHL Wolves. The Blazers and the Wolves were second and first respectively in the standings.

At 7:50pm bottom club Wendy’s Tarheels look to put a snag in Shaolin’s powerful offense.

Esso come into their match as one of the most balanced teams in division one, ranking in the top three in points scored (357) and points allowed (327).

The Wolves meanwhile have relied on a relentless defense that has allowed the fewest points (265) in the division.

Expect defense to figure prominently in their match-up. In particular steals, blocks and turnovers should not be in short supply. The result is ball possession, which is normally crucial, will play an even bigger role tonight.

Among the defensive stars to look out for are shot-blocking force Bosko Tomzsezik and fast-handed Perry Levy for Esso plus Earl Allen and Gary Whittaker for DHL.

The key area for fans to watch will be rebounding. Both clubs boast big men that can wipe the glass cleaner than Windex.

Among the more intriguing match-ups to observe is how well Esso big man Kevin Maxwell can out-muscle DHL’s Andres Kirchman in the paint.

Whichever team can win the battle on the boards can get an edge on both ends of the court.

Based on prior performances look for the stars on both teams to show up and fill up the stats sheet.

Guys like Samuel O’Garro and Rotando Thompson for the Blazers are double-doubles waiting to happen. Then again Gary ‘Butcher’ McLaughlin and Dwight O’Garro for the Wolves can wreak all sorts of havoc.

In the late game the Wendy’s Tarheels have languished in the cellar due to a lack of scoring as they have scored the fewest points (249) in the division.

Shaolin meanwhile have stormed out of the gate, especially on the offensive end as they have scored the most points (396).

In spite of Shaolin’s better record and offense Wendy’s can still be very much in the game. For one thing they are, arguably, a better defensive team.

Wendy’s prefer a grind-out style of play where half-court offense is the order of the day. Many teams get inpatient in the half-court and that has allowed Tarheels to be third in points allowed (330) and boast crafty wingmen in Omar Clarke and Ransford Welcome that can be pests on the defensive end.

On the other hand Shaolin are a team that loves to run and get in transition. They can cut down the lane in the half court set if they have to but they are deadliest when the defense does not have time to set up.

Another key area for Wendy’s is their inside play. There are no shortage of big men on the side with the likes of Haymond Rankine, Stephen Shaw and Rhod Taylor.

However they have yet to come together and take over the paint. They’ll need to rebound well (especially defensively) and alter shots to push around Shaolin’s inside men like Omari Corbin and Phillip Wilson.

Coming into this week the division standings saw DHL first, Esso second, Bullets third, Shaolin fourth and George Town fifth followed by Colombia and Tarheels.