Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Ellerslie b-ball kings at last


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Ellerslie already had to wait 17 years for this moment.
Then came extra time.
The title drought finally came to an end as Kadeem Brathwaite’s 13 points in the fourth quarter and overtime led Ellerslie to the United Insurance Schools’ Division Two basketball championship via yesterday’s 82-80 extra time thriller over The Lester Vaughan School at University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
It was the cruel end to three stirring, yet futile rallies from a valiant Lester Vaughan side that came into the title game as heavy underdogs.
But it was hard to root against a school that hadn’t won since 1995. The men who came so close to ending the hex last year almost fell short once again, as Lester Vaughan twice battled back from daunting double-digit deficits to take the unlikeliest of leads with 36 seconds remaining.
This coming after Ellerslie stormed out to an initial 15-3 lead and then a 33-21 cushion on the back of Antoine Morris’ surreal 22-point first-half effort.
However, Demar Austin and Brandon Hope sparked two separate third-quarter comebacks before Shamar Rock and Zachary Cave got in on the act to erase a six-point (57-51) hole in the final minutes of the fourth.
Lester Vaughan even seemed to have one hand on the cup after Hope capped a 16-9 run with a go-ahead three-pointer (67-66) with 36 seconds left.
Morris, though, responded with a turnaround banker, and Akeil Straker had a chance to seal the deal in regulation with a pair of free throws, after Rock spilt two foul shots at the other end.
But Straker missed badly on both attempts before Morris’ half-court heave was way off the mark as time expired.
Good thing Brathwaite wasn’t similarly off target. All wrapped up in bandages from prior falls, the wiry guard simply refused to stop attacking the rack, earning a pair of free throws before adding a floater and a spectacular running banker to open a decisive 79-72 cushion in overtime. He even found Morris in the open court for a breakaway dunk for good measure as Ellerslie seemingly put away the contest.
True to the game’s tone, Lester Vaughan still didn’t call it quits, with Cave scoring six quick points in less than 20 seconds to cut Ellerslie’s lead to just one (81-80) with five seconds remaining. It proved too little too late, though, as Brathwaite added another free throw before the clock expired.
It was the anti-climactic finish to yet another of Lester Vaughan’s heroic comebacks – the first of which was spurred by Brett Williams, who scored eight quick points of a 10-2 first-quarter run.
When Ellerslie built a then 33-21 advantage, it was Hope who relentlessly drove to the hoop to ignite a 11-4 rally before Austin and Cave capped the comeback by scoring 13 points between them spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth to lock the scores at 48.
Morris eventually ended the run, finishing with a game-high 39 points and the tournament MVP award, while Brathwaite scored 15 and Roderick Massiah had 13. Cave led Lester Vaughan with 26 points, Hope had 17 while Rock and Williams scored 13 apiece.


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