The Esso Blazers have had a roller coaster season.
On the one hand they struggled down the stretch yet on the other hand they made the league finals. Nevertheless the season still ended in misery.
On Sunday the Blazers lost to the DHL Wolves 99-89 in game three of the division one finals for the Domino’s Pizza Men’s Basketball League.
With the win the Wolves completed a three game sweep of the Blazers to claim their first CIBA championship trophy.
Meanwhile Esso remain without a title after being a playoff contender for the last six seasons.
Sunday’s loss was the last bump in what has been a rocky road in the 2009 season. Everything seemingly went their way through the first six games as they were the second-best team in the league.
However things started going downhill and over the course of about four games the Blazers went from contender to barely a playoff hopeful. In fact the squad needed help from perennial contenders Shaolin and George Town Sports Club to ensure a playoff spot.
The Blazers ended up with the three seed at just 7-5 and the team stats were just as lacklustre. On one hand they scored the scored the second most points in the league with 913 points. Yet Esso allowed the most points in the league with 927 points.
From there Esso would face a tough Silver Bullets team in the first round. The Bullets pushed the Blazers to three games before Esso shut the door.
In spite of their finals sweep, the Blazers put up a good fight. In fact the series could have gone another game if Esso won an epic overtime thriller in game two. Nevertheless the Blazers had the rebounding advantage, won the battle behind the arc and played as well on defense (stats-wise) as DHL.
Esso provided competition in large part due to the inspired play of brothers Samuel and Shaad O’Garro. The duo pushed their team forward as Sammy averaged over 35 points and 12 rebounds a game while Shaad averaged over 20 points and 15 rebounds a game.
Yet the O’Garro brothers were not alone as they had solid help. The biggest contributions came from veteran stars Rotando Thompson and Perry Levy.
Their best games were in game two as Thompson posted 17 points, eight rebounds and two blocks while Levy had 20 points (including three treys), six rebounds and five assists.
With big man Bosko Tomsezick unavailable for the playoffs and Kevin Maxwell out for many games due to his honeymoon, Esso faced an uphill battle with a short bench.
Yet the role players played well and were a notable presence more times than not. The three mainstays for Esso off the bench were Morgan Bodden, Leslie Harvey and Lisani Sambula.
A veteran of three seasons with Esso, Bodden made his biggest impact by flashing a notorious long-range game. Every time he entered the game the defense had to take notice of him and guard him tight due to his quick release.
His best game was arguably in game one when he had seven points (including one trey), three rebounds and three assists.
Known more for his exploits in flag football, Harvey brought his athleticism and non-stop hustle to the court in a big way. His best game was in game three when he had five points (including a trey), two rebounds and two steals.
Another player who doesn’t have big numbers is young talent Lisani Sambula. His hustle gets him more than his fair share of touches on the ball and if he has an open lane he can take it to the hole strong.