For the last two years, boys basketball has been dominated by the Wolves and the Grand Pavilion Shockwaves.
The clubs have met in the boys final of the Appleby Under-19 Basketball League, alternating championships. Both clubs are confident they will meet up in the title game for a third consecutive time.
Wolves head coach Duran ‘Trini’ Whittaker states his side is mentally ready for that battle.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to play Shockwaves a third straight year,” Whittaker said. “Our team looks well balanced and we’re looking to repeat. However the playoffs are totally different from the regular season and anything can happen. It will be interesting because the teams are mostly well balanced, compared to years past when Shockwaves and us were clearly the best teams.”
The Wolves head into the postseason with much of the focus. The defending champions earned the regular season crown with a 9-1 mark and sport one of the league’s best players in Most Valuable Player candidate Peter Grant. The Shockwaves have not been too far off the pace, as they ended in third place with a 6-4 mark. They also sport a MVP contender in Phillip Webb.
Shockwaves head coach Jonathan Powery states the focus is on challenging for the title once again.
“The Wolves are the defending champions and they are always a big threat,” Powery said. “It’s the same thing as last year. No one expected us to make the finals when we went against Future (Sports Club in the first round).
“It’s not going to be easy but I’m pretty confident this team is ready for the finals.”
Wolves and Shockwaves play their first playoff games on Tuesday, 6 December. The Wolves take on the fourth seed 4-6 Esso Blazers, under coaches Carlos Pastor and Chris Lucas, while the Shockwaves tackle 9-1 Bodden Town, under coaches James ‘Cadillac’ Collins and Tim Howard.
Both the Wolves and Shockwaves feel their opponents present a challenge. Whittaker states his Wolves are in the best position.
“It’s been a pretty good season, I’m proud of our players and we already bagged first place. We’re playing the Blazers in the playoffs after playing a make-up game against them last week. Esso are a fairly good team but we will have a slight advantage because we’ve had a good look at them. But we’re going out and giving our best shot.
“BT and Shockwaves make a good match-up. If anything, BT has size on us and we would have to tweak our game for them. They gave us our only loss, though most of our players were at Pirates Week for that game.”
The Shockwaves have a tough opponent in BT, who swept their two-game season series. Powery states in spite of that fact, confidence on the squad is high.
“BT is a real solid team. They pack a punch on defence with their big statues. But I feel good going into the playoffs.
“Every season has been challenging but fun as well. This year presented different challenges with a very young group. We lost guys like Diego (Smith) and Cleve (Stewart). But unlike 2010 everyone understands their positions. It’s just a matter of getting everyone to play hard as a unit.”
Though the Shockwaves and Wolves pride themselves on defence, offence might be their winning features. The squads finished one-two in points scored this season (Shockwaves had 621 points while the Wolves sported 593 points).
Both coaches state a number of players contributed to those numbers.
“We have tremendous talent and our heart will help,” Whittaker said. “Peter Grant gets well deserved props as the MVP though for me he has to play both sides of the court more. Brandon Thompson was a big loss for us and we’ll be hampered without him because he was a big help on both ends. He completely broke his ankle against BT in what was by far the worst injury I’ve ever seen. He had surgery last month and we wish him a speedy recovery.
“If David Powery brings his A game, no one can beat us. We have some young guns like Reuben Barnes who has one of the league’s sweetest strokes. Gabriel Hydes helps out off the bench with his three-point shooting and Jamel Winton is a good player. Ben Stoner is a coach on the floor at all times. For the four years we’ve been together he’s one of the most improved players I’ve seen. He understands the game, has smart basketball IQ and is a key part of our team.
“One last point I’d like to make is I encourage the fans to come out and support all of the teams. It’s always better to have the fans come out and give their support for basketball.”
“We had some big losses early in the season,” Powery said. “But Jesper Barrozo came back and contributed. Ezra McLaughlin has really stepped up for the team. Arin Taylor too has improved along with Ricardo Clarke. Everyone has really improved though Ezra has probably shown the most improvement with his play. He has given us many important baskets.”