The Esso Blazers are one game away from exorcising playoff demons.
Esso are preparing for game three of their best-of-three series with the DHL Wolves this Sunday, 21 May. The contest is part of the division one playoffs for the Cayman Islands Basketball Association 2012 national men’s league.
Esso assistant coach Carlos Pastor states his Blazers are going into Sunday’s contest confident.
“You have to be confident, it’s the only way you can play the game,” Pastor said. “But it’s more than about having confidence. It’s about having confidence in each other and the work we put in. A lot goes on behind the scenes. We sacrifice time with practice, in the film room looking at video, we go above and beyond to achieve what we have so far.”
For the series to reach three games is somewhat surprising. Esso were the regular season champions and top overall seed after posting an 8-0 record. The Wolves were fourth at 3-5. On the other hand, the Blazers have struggled to topple DHL in recent years, most notably losing to the green gang in the 2009 national finals.
The Blazers forced game three at Camana Bay’s Arts and Recreation Centre by defeating the Wolves by 12 points last Sunday. Esso, who scored over 70 points, needed the win to stay alive in the playoffs after losing game one 72-62 at Camana Bay.
Four players were in double digits for DHL in game one as Gary ‘Butcher’ McLaughlin led all scorers with 20 points, eight rebounds and three steals. He had help from Dwight O’Garro (18 points, 18 rebounds, eight blocks), Earl Allen (15 points, four assists) and Sandi Jiminez (11 points, four rebounds).
The Blazers, under head coach Shawn Pitterson, countered with Shaad O’Garro and his 18 points off four three-pointers, 15 rebounds, five assists and six steals. Kevin Maxwell added 17 points and 11 rebounds. Pastor, a Puerto Rican who came from Miami and has been here nearly two years, states many players need to play well in game three.
“It’s an all-out team effort. We have some college players that help. But guys like Kevin, Jasen Campbell, Carlo Archibold and Deandre Simpson have been there all season for us. Perry Levy is also down this year and on the whole, it has been a team effort.”
An Esso victory would pit them in the 2012 finals against the reigning champions, the Dominos Warriors. Dominos shook off a mediocre 4-4 regular season showing to complete a two-game sweep of Curtis Wilson and the Shining Stars Childhood Care and Education Centre this month. Leading the way for the Warriors has been a veteran cast featuring the likes of Collin Anglin and Borislav Djordjic.
Pastor states his squad, which has unsung talents like Nicholas ‘Muscles’ Beverly, was prepared to face either team.
“I didn’t have a preference. We pride ourselves on preparation against whatever the opponent is. I couldn’t say who would win as each team had their strengths and weaknesses. It was up for grabs. If we progress to the finals, regardless of who is there, our job is to go out and get the job done.”