Four youth basketball teams are slated to begin their playoff march.
The boys division of the Appleby Under-19 Basketball League start their postseason on Tuesday, 6 December. The Sir Vassell Johnson Hall of the University College of the Cayman Islands sees single elimination matches from 6pm.
One of the squads in action are the 6-4 Grand Pavilion Shockwaves, who ended up third in the league. They are slated to face second-ranked 9-1 Bodden Town in the first round. For Shockwaves guard Dominic Martucci, 15, the match-up is personal.
“I love being third because we get to play BT,” Martucci said. “It’s a rematch, that’s what we got. We gave them the game of the year (in the regular season). I’m confident, I know they can’t stop me. I can only beat myself.”
The Shockwaves played BT twice in the regular season, losing both contests by five points or less. The first encounter in September was a battle of the boards that saw Shockwaves Most Valuable Player candidates Phillip Webb and Rashaad Powery-Saunds combine for 34 rebounds and 20 points. Martucci had a quiet game with nine points and two assists while BT claimed victory behind Sonny Powell (18 points) and Travis Barnes (12 rebounds).
The second match in November saw Martucci have a solid showing with a game-high 17 points and six rebounds. Webb had a monster outing with 14 points, 39 rebounds and nine blocks. The key trio for BT were Barnes (10 points), Maynor Brooks (13 points) and Christopher Collins (10 rebounds).
Aside from the close contests, the clubs have a budding rivalry on another level. Martucci, who is from Miami, previously played for BT and was part of their U16 squad that won a league crown earlier this year, at the Shockwaves’ expense. The George Town resident states he knows his opponents well.
“I know all of their tricks and secrets. I feel really confident. We can show up without Rashaad. With him, there’s no telling what our power players can do.”
Powery-Saunds and Webb form arguably the best big man tandem in the league. They rank in the top three in the competition in scoring and rebounding. Powery-Saunds was absent for the Shockwaves’ season finale, which was a 64-54 win over the Esso Blazers in a game that decided the third seed.
The Blazers had control for most of the contest behind their trio of all-stars in Oscar Rivers (10 points, 11 rebounds), Brad Galbraith (12 points) and Daniel Quinland (10 points, four rebounds). It took a monster fourth quarter, guided by Webb (26 points, 23 rebounds) and Ezra McLaughlin (10 points), for the Shockwaves to pull away.
Martucci, who had 18 points and two three-pointers, states the victory was good for morale.
“I’m proud of the team, they stepped up. Without having Rashaad there it was a hard fight. But we showed up like we had to and I have lots of confidence (going into the playoffs).”
On the flip side 4-6 Esso now tackle 9-1 Wolves, the number one seed. The defending champions recently lost their chance at a perfect season with 16-point loss to BT. Nevertheless Peter Grant remains the heart of the team as he is the league’s leading scorer (31.5 points per game) and passer (4.1 assists per game).
For Blazers big man Oscar Rivers, 16, it will be daunting to face the green gang. However the George Town native states he is ready.
“Losing hurt, it was a letdown,” Rivers said. “We have the ability and we can show it. I know we can do better and I’m confident we’ll play well. It’s just the communication and the execution of our plays (that hurt us). We’re going to show what we got.
“I’m not nervous about anyone. I’m trying to do my best. We all train hard as a team. I’m not the best player but I can be part of the best team.”