Digicel made great strides

A trend this year in local hoops was the balance of power.

For the most part teams were well-rounded and competitive and the title was up for grabs.

The only exception to that theme was in division two of the Domino’s Pizza Men’s Basketball League.

Digicel Broadband quickly established themselves as the team to beat and left no doubt of their intended march to the finals.

Digicel came into the season with experience and motivation. The squad was coming off a tough loss to team Colombia in the division finals last season. 2009 would mark its third year in the division and arguably the best chance of advancing to division one.

The squad used that history to its advantage this year as Digicel rolled through the regular season undefeated.

Led by last year’s stars Gavin McMaster and Michael Burbidge, the side was never flustered but always focused. They found a way to get by talented teams like Esso Blazers B, Rock Hole Fyah Ants and Future Sports Club.

That calm and determined attitude carried them into their first round match-up with the Ritz Carlton Lions. The Lions were a team grateful to make the postseason after a gruelling 2-6 season.

However the Lions would be no match for Digicel as Ritz lost in two straight games: 65-59 in game one and 74-66 in game two.

Stewart Connelly and Michael Lubin lead the way in game one combining for 35 points, 22 rebounds and perfect shooting from the free-throw line.

Game two saw an onslaught of offensive production with McMaster guiding the team with 26 points and five steals. Lubin had 19 points, Burbidge had 17 points and 19 rebounds and role player Blair Jones had a big showing with 10 points and eight rebounds.

Ritz Carlton had a heart-felt performance from top player Robert Hebert who had 45 points and seven treys in the best-of-three series.

Coming into last weekend Digicel seemed to have the division title all but wrapped up.

The squad beat Esso Blazers B 75-65 in game one on Thursday at the Cayman Islands Basketball Association Court and had not lost a game to the Blazers this season. To their credit Brandon Glasgow and Stephen Babb played well for Esso.

The usual suspects had a starring role for Digicel though the squad saw great performances from unheralded role players Mike Diamond and James Mcelvana.

Esso meanwhile look like they will stay in division two another season. The Blazers had only two losses during the regular season, both at the hands of Digicel.

The squad barely got by a gritty Rock Hole team in their two-game sweep during the opening round. The scores were 61-59 in game one and 75-65 in game two.

An encouraging sign at the time was the offensive production of the role players. Bruce Thompson and Michael Daley combined for 32 points, 12 rebounds and six steals in game one.

Game two saw an outstanding performance from up-and-coming big man Darryl Paddyfoot. In one of his best games in local hoops Paddyfoot carried his team with 24 points (which in fact lead all scorers on the night), 20 rebounds and four steals.

Nevertheless Coach Shawn Pitterson is set for an especially depressing off-season. Pitterson coached the Blazers team in division one that limped into the playoffs at 7-5 before being taken down in three straight games to the DHL Wolves in the final.

After game one the Digicel team was upbeat and in a celebratory mood. Among the happy players was Blair Jones. Jones, who is in his second season with the team, expressed his feelings on the finals at that point.

‘The game was never in doubt. Esso made it interesting in the fourth but we had it all under control.

‘We’re actually not sure if we’re ready to move up. Those teams play more and require more practice. That would be somewhat daunting for us as we like the pace we have now.’