It’s that Lakers-Cavs rivalry again.
Basketball’s age-old adversaries are set to face off on yet another big stage after Station Hill Cavaliers and Lumber Company Lakers advanced to Thursday night’s Co-operators General Insurance Premier League knockout final at the Wildey Gymnasium.
John Jones had 12 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter of Lakers’ tough 71-66 victory over Hilton Barbados Warriors before Derion Hurley came up short on a game-tying trey that allowed Station Hill to escape with a last-second 65-62 win against Orange 3 Pinelands.
The results set up a rematch of last year’s final between the two powerhouse clubs, who’ve also contested three other knockout title games (2005, 2008, 2012) and five playoff series over the last decade, including a trio of league finals (2007, 2008, 2010).
But both sides nearly missed their date with destiny, particularly the defending champion Cavs, who almost wasted Kelvin Patterson’s classic performance by blowing all but three of a 15-point lead in one dramatic fourth-quarter collapse.
Holding what seemed an insurmountable 58-43 lead, Station Hill managed just a further seven points the rest of the way, including three points over the final six minutes of the contest amidst a 14-3 Pine rally.
Charles Vanderpool started the run going with a dunk and drive before national teammate Junior Moore got in on the act by scoring off the offensive glass.
National captain Jeremy Gill and Tehron King then had successive jumpers to sandwich a pair of Zahir Motara free throws that cut the deficit to single digits (62-56).
Granville Gittens seemly ended the rally with a jumper of his own though, but Gill quickly responded with an “and one” drive before Hurley made it a two-possession game (65-61) with two minutes left.
Cavs captain Jason Smith then compounded matters with a silly foul on Hurley, who split a pair of free throws on the next trip.
And Pinelands seemed certain of forcing overtime when Simmons came up with a steal and found Hurley open in transition.
But the young guard pulled up to take game-tying triple that fell well short instead of making the extra pass ahead to Gill for a possible “and-one” layup.
It served as a huge sigh of relief for a Station Hill side that had to come back from its own double-digit deficit (22-12) before seemingly running away with the game via a 23-6 third-quarter surge.
Turning back the clock, Patterson had one of those timeless performances by dominating the paint with a series of post moves to transform a close 35-37 contest into a 58-43 rout.
Jamai Puckerin was actually the one who ignited the run with eight quick points on a layup, drop-step, baby hook and a tough “and-one” finish in the paint.
Puckerin finished with 16 points and Gittens added ten while Vanderpool led Pinelands with 12 points.
Earlier, Jones had 12 points in the fourth quarter including a decisive dunk to power Lakers to an extremely tight victory.
Tied at 61 with two minutes left, Lakers took the lead for good on two Ormond Haynes free throws before Jones came up with a steal and went coast-to-coast for a huge throw-down (65-61).
Ricardo “Aru” Toussaint answered with a short jumper and had the opportunity to level the scores again when he missed a similar jump shot from the exact same spot on the floor.
Jones and Adrian Allman then converted four free throws before Shaquan Newton made things interesting with a late three-pointer.
Keefe Birkett added 18 points for Lakers and Haynes finished with ten while Justin Pile and Toussaint led Warriors with 17 and 15 points respectively. (JM)