Saturday, April 20, 2024

Lakers win sixth league title


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Apparently Warriors only delayed the inevitable. The title is staying in Husbands.

Lumber Company Lakers are still the kings, as co-MVPs John Jones and Chiamaka Browne both had double-doubles as part of the champs’ 68-51 Game 5 victory in Monday’s Co-operators General Insurance Premier League finals at the Barbados Community College.

It’s become an embarrassment of riches now for local basketball’s gold standard following a decade of dominance that has seen Lakers win six league crowns in nine finals appearances.

“This one is different obviously but it’s still going to be special based on the stuff we went through this year and considering there aren’t any guarantees then we just take them as we come and enjoy it,” said head coach Francis Williams.

The championship did indeed come with its challenges, as Lakers had to shuffle key forward Kregg Jones, Jehu Lafeuille and Ricardo Jemmott in and out of a line-up that dealt with the continued shooting woes of Keefe Birkett.

And Warriors took advantage, having forced a decisive fifth game before clawing their way back from a 38-26 deficit to make the contest a two-possession game (38-32) in the third quarter.

But Lakers literally slammed the door shut after Jones and Jemmott combined for three huge dunks to spark a series-clinching 15-7 run.

Jemmott actually got the ball rolling, throwing down a monstrous one-handed slam off an inbounds play before getting out in transition to hit home an even bigger jam.

Jones then quickly followed with a short hook and a tip-in prior to emphatically finishing off Browne’s alley-oop toss (49-37).

Warriors briefly threatened at the start of the fourth quarter though, as Justin Pile scored in transition off a gorgeous euro-step and Tremaine Shaw added a telling “and-one” play.

However, Jemmott proved near unstoppable in the paint once more, terrorising Warriors on the offensive glass by converting four straight put-backs (61-45).

And he was just as crucial at the other end of the floor in leading a stifling defensive effort that held league MVP front-runner Jamar “Spanner” Headley to a woeful four of 19 shooting from the floor.

“We pride ourselves on defence, so we know even if we can’t score we should be able to keep everyone in check, and tonight was most representative of that,” Williams explained.

Lakers didn’t actually start well at the end of the floor after Warriors opened the contest with two monster slams, including Headley’s baseline dunk over the top of Jones.

But Lakers eventually settled down and Birkett hit three jumpers in succession to ignite one big 19-3 Lakers reply.

Browne then got in on the act with a triple of his own before scoring on two drives, including a deft floater over Headley’s outstretched hands (23-9).

Warriors managed to get within single digits on baskets from Shaw, Ricardo Toussaint and Shaquan Newton before Jones put his stamp on the game’s proceedings.

The hulking centre was simply too strong down low, overpowering his defenders for a pair of put-backs and a layup all while Jemmott blocked Headley on successive plays at the rim.

Mark Bridgeman then threw in a jumper for good measure as Lakers went back ahead 36-24 by the half-time break.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Warriors, especially after the first round they had against Pinelands, but somehow as a coach I felt we missed either Cavs or Pinelands pushing us in the finals and that showed in our up and down play in the finals,” said Williams.

Jones finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, Browne added 14 points and 11 assists and Jemmott had 17 points and nine boards. Pile led Warriors with 18 points and Shaw scored 12. (JM)


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