The Wolves have visions of a third straight basketball championship in the Cayman Islands.
To make that a reality, they will first have to contend with an upstart team Philippines. The squads square off in game one of their best-of-three semi-finals on Thursday 26 May at the Arts and Recreation Centre. The series is part of the division one playoffs for the 2011 national men’s basketball league put on by the Cayman Islands Basketball Association.
Many players, like starting point guard Vanrick Felix, are keeping talk of a three-peat in perspective.
“There is big hype around this series,” Felix said. “Then again with every game and series you have to be confident to win. When you’re in the playoffs it boils down to who wants it more. I know there is talk of a three-peat and hopefully that will happen, we’ll see.
“As champions we’re walking around with a target on our backs, like the Los Angeles Lakers this year. Every team is preparing to win games against you, especially because you’re champs.”
The Wolves are coming off two straight championships, with the first being claimed outdoors. This season the side ended up in second place at 9-3. Star player Gary ‘Butcher’ McLaughlin states the team remain heavy favourites to win.
“We have a pretty good squad again and I have the confidence,” McLaughlin said. “Sometimes there are a lot of distractions with personal issues. We just need everyone to focus and be ready to play. We will be more than successful if we win. The first two titles we had to fight real hard and this year it’s different because we’re the favourites. George Town has far more championships than us but it would be a big accomplishment for us if we win.”
Aside from talk of a three-peat, the Wolves have much to say about a resilient Filipino side. The regular season series was split and team Philippines boasts two of the league’s best players in Christian Ferrer and Chris Lucas. Felix maintains the Wolves have to play their game and contain the two opposing stars to succeed.
“The regular season series saw some hard-fought matches. They capitalized on our mistakes and we have to do better. The playoffs should be more exciting and intense. Whoever comes to play will be the one to win. It’s about how we prepare and we have to give it our all on defence and offence. We have to go hard or else we’ll lose.
“Wolves are about making stops and getting out in the open. Basketball is a team sport, regardless of bench, stars or whatever. It’s a team effort. For example Mitchie Williams can make shots and hold it down on defence. Cory Thompson is very athletic and can make plays. It’s all about playing a role on our team. For example I’m the point guard and though I’m not a scorer I’m about passing the ball and facilitating the offence.
“Ferrer and Lucas control games by seeing the court and hustling. We got to slow them down and challenge the other guys to step up and make plays. We don’t look down on them because they can hurt you. But we want them to prove they can be consistent.”
McLaughlin also feels defending Lucas and Ferrer are keys to the series.
“They came out pretty strong for the first round. They added one/two guys that made them a contending team. They caught us off guard in the first game and in the second we were more prepared. We know how they play and they know how we play. We just got to capitalize on our chances and close out quarters strong. It’s a good match-up but if we stick to our game plan we’ll be successful. We’ll know where we stand from there.
“Their two guys are key ingredients to that team. We contain them and the other guys will not be effective. If they do what they want to do, the other guys will feed off of that. We got to nip that in the bud from early.
“I’m looking forward to Vanrick Felix doing well. Dwight O’Garro and Cory also have to play well. We need those three to play at their best.”