Sunday, April 14, 2024

ON THE BALL: Picture that’s not all clear


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In this edition of On The Ball, NATION basketball writer Justin Marville previews tomorrow’s start of the Co-operators General Insurance Premier League postseason.
INSIGHTS, OBSERVATIONS and musings of the last week of regular season top flight action ahead of tomorrow’s play-offs.
So the only certainty is the definite lack of it for this wide-open postseason.
Honestly, can anyone truly claim that they can predict this year’s eventual champion, far less call the winners of both first-round series without a shadow of a doubt?
We didn’t even know what those match-ups were up to 10:30 last night, unless of course I was somehow wrong in assuming that the Pine-Cougars regular season finale was pivotal in seeding the league’s top three.
And let’s just say we did happen to know who was playing whom, does it really matter considering any judgements made would be based on that wild, up-and-down collection of games that tried to pass themselves off as the regular season?
To recap: Smalta Pinelands swept Lumber Company LSC. LSC swept Station Hill Cavaliers. Cavaliers swept Pinelands. And this is nothing to speak of the even more dizzying results surrounding the Jekyll and Hyde Cougars.
Then the outcomes themselves don’t paint the entire picture.
While the champs may own a perfect 2-0 record against Station Hill this season, both wins came before Kelvin Patterson’s arrival, while Pinelands’ early season victory over Cougars is similarly tainted by the absence of Ricardo Jemmott.
The Cavs would also be wise in throwing away the stat sheets from that first Cougars matchup, what with head coach Oliver Nicholas and point guard Terrence Roach (yeah, remember those two?) still looming as major distractions in Hothersal.
So what do we really know? That we know nothing, and this postseason is truly anyone’s guess.
 What I do know, though, is the champs won’t be referred to as such for much longer without making some serious adjustments.
Yes, they’ve won four titles in seven years without really being a good defensive rebounding team, but gone now is the prolific offence that used to make up for those extra possessions they’re continually giving up.
And to win a fifth, LSC will definitely have to beat two teams with extremely big frontlines that love to crash the glass, no matter who they face.
The problem is that the team is at its best (offensively at least) when deploying just one traditional big man in a small-ball unit that features either Mark Bridgeman or Ian Alexander at the 4.
Those line-ups, while particularly quick at changing ends, inevitably get murdered on the boards, even though they are rather necessary in putting points on the board.
But controlling the glass may be the least of their concerns if LSC don’t get those opponents to miss.
As it stands, the Husbands men can count on matching up with teams that depend on scoring in the paint, whether it be Pinelands (Charles Vanderpool, Junior Moore), Station Hill (Kelvin Patterson, Jamai Puckerin, Jamario Clarke, Lamar Grazette) or Cougars (Ricardo Jemmott, Damien Nicholls).
I think it’s safe to say if they aren’t equipped to keep these frontcourts of the boards, then LSC is similarly troubled marking some of the same players one-on-one without help – the same help that might be needed to go after rebounds.
Of course, head coach Francis Williams has been there, done that, having led the squad to ten consecutive postseasons now while beating all of those aforementioned squads before.
So I wouldn’t be fast to write off the champs just yet, even if they can’t rebound from those rebounding woes.
 Can you remember a time when the title race was so wide open?
Well, I do.
You don’t have to go back too far to find a season where each play-off club had a realistic shot at winning it all, as 2009 featured some four title-worthy teams in the postseason.
Ironically, it’s the last time LSC, Pinelands and Cavs were all in the play-offs together, and boy did that make for some fireworks.
Okay, maybe just in the first round.
It was an epic opening act for the 2009 postseason to say the least, with the upstart Pine shocking Jeremy Gill and the top-seeded Bulls in a gripping Game 3.
But that paled in comparison to the third straight meeting between LSC and Station Hill, which also went down to a decisive Game 3, where all-time great Andrew Alleyne ended the champs’ quest for a third straight title on the most memorable of buzzer-beating jumpers.
If only we could get such drama for these play-offs, huh.
 Speaking of that Lakers-Cavs series, wouldn’t it just be fitting that the sport’s two constants renew their rivalry in the year of uncertainty.
Obviously, it would be taking a slight detour from the much-awaited and expected 2013 finals rematch between LSC and Pinelands that pits the kings against the league’s new super power.
But can you really say you didn’t see it coming, with basketball’s biggest rivals having accounted for eight of the last ten league titles along with numerous other knockout cups.
And that doesn’t even sum up a rich history that has seen the two do battle in four straight postseasons from 2007 to 2010, including three separate finals series.
Then there’s that small issue of the last time they met.
It was just four short years ago that the Lakers-Cavs matchup produced arguably the greatest finals ever, as Game 1 went into triple-overtime before Station Hill won again in a heart-stopping, last-second, one-point thriller in Game 2.
As if that weren’t enough, Game 4 also went into extras until the Cavs were finally awarded the trophy when both clubs left everything on the floor.
Now I’m not saying a certain governing body will be hoping for such a re-enactment.
But I can sure as hell tell you it definitely won’t be rooting against it.


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