The finals for any sport are a tense affair.
Teams give their all on every play, coaches are yelling their hearts out and fans are on an emotional roller coaster.
Last Thursday saw all those aspects come to the fore in the Domino’s Pizza Men’s Basketball league division one finals.
Game two of the best-of-five series took place at the Cayman Islands Basketball Association Court off Eastern Avenue from 6:30pm.
The DHL Wolves came into the match with all the momentum. The side were fresh off a two game sweep of team Colombia in the semi-finals two weeks ago.
In addition the club strolled to victory in game one of the finals last Tuesday by 15 points. Gary ‘Butcher’ McLaughlin (31 points, 10 rebounds) and Dwight O’Garro (31 points, eight rebounds, five assists) both had monster games.
Their opponents, the Esso Blazers, came in with a chip on their shoulder and a lot to prove.
After finishing the regular season with the second-best record the squad needed three games to get by an upstart Silver Bullets team.
Also they lost game one of the finals in spite of big games from brothers Samuel (39 points, 10 rebounds) and Shaad O’Garro (21 points, 14 rebounds).
The first quarter showed the Wolves had not lost their step. They swung the ball around patiently and got big man Dwight O’Garro involved early and raced out to a 13 point lead.
However in the second quarter the O’Garro brothers would put the Blazers on their backs. The duo attacked the boards, made tough shots and caused a slew of turnovers.
With their play Esso clawed their way back into the match. Timely scores by role players Leslie Harvey and Perry Levy allowed Esso to take a surprising 10 point lead into half-time.
During the half-time break both coaches urged their teams to stay focused. Coach Shawn Pitterson urged his Blazers club to stay hungry and be active on both sides of the court.
Meanwhile Coach Duran ‘Trinni’ Whittaker instructed his Wolves side to stay committed to perimeter defense and to continue working the ball inside to O’Garro and Andres Kirchman.
The third quarter would be a tight affair that saw the lead change hands several times. A key player for DHL during the third was Carson Fagan. The renowned local footballer showed he had plenty of game on the court, nailing big shots under pressure and being a pest on defense.
Esso countered with the inside play of Rotando Thompson. The big man would alter many a shot on defense and was a presence on the boards.
The fans also made their presence known in the quarter. With the majority being Wolves supporters they could be heard heckling Blazers players at the foul line and booing with every call the referees made that went the Blazers’s way.
The fourth quarter would be an epic one. Both teams went back and forth as the clubs made big shots after big shots. Shaad O’Garro made some exquisite jumpers while team-mate Perry Levy dialled in a string of treys.
DHL countered with inspired play from unsung heroes Earl ‘Barbosa’ Allen and Mitchie Williams. Allen, like his NBA counterpart, was a blur on the wing and drove hard to the lane for tough baskets. Williams showed his range and shooting touch with a flurry of long-range bombs.
Ultimately foul trouble and free throw shooting would be the key. With three minutes left to go in the fourth, both teams were over the foul limit of five fouls. Every foul sent the clubs to the charity stripe as they tried to cash in on easy points.
However neither club could execute from the line. Earl Allen missed a number of clutch free throws for the Wolves. Meanwhile Esso would miss a golden chance to seal the victory.
Samuel O’Garro was sent to the line with seconds left on the clock. With the game tied at 86, all O’Garro had to do was make one of two free throws. But O’Garro missed both shots (the second one seemingly on purpose in the hopes of putting up the rebound) and the game went into overtime.
The overtime would be a blessing for the Wolves. The side ran ahead and made the first six baskets. Gary McLaughlin would come up huge for the Wolves as he made clutch shot after clutch shot.
Esso did their best to stay in it with many drives to the basket. However the Wolves offense would be too much and their defensive hustle would keep the Blazers in check.
Soon the final horn would sound and Wolves fans like Mark Woollard would run onto the court to celebrate DHL’s narrow 97-96 over-time win.
Though Samuel O’Garro and his Blazers team lost at least he can take some solace. For the second straight game he lead all scorers as he posted 35 points with an impressive seven treys.
O’Garro’s touch from distance nearly put him in the record books. O’Garro finished two treys shy of the record for the most three-pointers in the men’s final, set by Ovaine Monteith years ago with the Wendy’s Tarheels.
With the victory the Wolves took a commanding two games to none lead over Esso. Game three was on Sunday and the rest of the games were scheduled for this week, if necessary.
CIBA Technical Director Voot O’Garro expressed his views on the match.
‘It was a very important game for Esso to win; going down two-nil makes it very difficult for Esso. Sammy’s missed free throws at the end were critical.
‘Going into overtime gave the Wolves time to catch their breath, gather themselves and come back with a more spirited fight. Also the Wolves bench played an important part. DHL had a much deeper bench as they had around five bench players while Esso had three people.’