Challengers shock UWI Blackbirds

THE super team, the unbeaten UWI Blackbirds, were shell-shocked by the VR Carrington’s Construction Challengers, losing 82-81, after a defensive blunder forced a Co-operators General Insurance, Barbados Amateur Basketball Association First Division league semi-finals overtime thriller on Sunday night at the Barbados Community College (BCC).

In fact there were two defensive blunders, the first by Ayinde Bernard of the Blackbirds at the end of regulation and the second by Johnathan Dottin and Andre Pierre at the close of overtime. Bernard was obviously unaware that Challengers needed 3 points to force overtime. Challengers had just come out of a time-out with 8.5 seconds to go on the clock and down 3, 69-72. Neil Patrick inbounded the ball to Nicholas “Gully” Collymore who swung it to a waiting Kevin Belgrave.

Todd Bourne came out to receive the bounce pass from Belgrave, outside of the three point line and Bernard closed him down. However the Blackbird defender not only made the error of not being close enough to make Bourne uncomfortable but he also made a cardinal defensive mistake, both of his hands were below his waist. Bourne rose up for the three point shot and as the saying goes “hand down, man down” and that is exactly Bernard must have thought when he turned around to see the ball splash through the net to tie the game at 72. With 3.7 seconds to play, UWI’s Ruel Rich took off down the court after the inbound but his prayer of a shot glided harmlessly past the ring and backboard.

The overtime period was a roller coaster with Andre Pierre starting the 5 minute period with a trey from the wing, his fourth for the game. It put Blackbirds up 72-75 but Bourne answered immediately, grabbing an offensive rebound under the basket. He converted the easy put-back to bring Challengers within 1 and then on the following possession finished with a runner in the lane to give his team the lead, 76-75 with 3:29 left. Patrick’s jumper over Clive Holder put Challengers up 3, 78-75 but Holder returned the favour at the other end and it started a UWI run for home. Bernard worked the paint for a tough basket and then Jamar King picked off a wayward pass and converted it to points to give UWI a 3 point advantage 78-81 with 1:41 showing on the clock.

Brewster hit a free throw after Holder fouled out but then turned the ball over after letting the ball slip through his hands on a rebound. Luckily King of Blackbirds immediately coughed up the ball back to Challengers and on that possession Bourne was left wide open close to the baseline for an uncontested jumper to lock the scores at 81. The inbound did not go to plan for UWI and Mark Leacock ended up with the ball under the basket and that is where Dottin made the second defensive blunder, fouling Leacock with 5.3 seconds left in overtime. Leacock’s first free throw bobbled in for Challengers to take an 82-81 lead but he missed the second. Dottin rebounded but his outlet pass was intercepted and Bourne somehow wound up with the ball and time ran out on the once perfect UWI Blackbirds.

It was a defensive battle throughout the game but each team stuck with what was working for them. UWI were trailing 16-12 after the first quarter but brought it to a one basket deficit at the half, 34-32. The Blackbirds took the lead in the third after a brisk 8 consecutive points from King. Both teams fought till the end but Challengers were the ones to do it to the wire. Todd Bourne finished with a game high 23 points, backed up by Mark Leacock with 22 and Neil Patrick with 21. For UWI, Jamar King sank 3 long range shots on his way to a team high 21 points. Andre Pierre had four three pointers of his own and finished with 14 while Clive Holder scored 10 and Ruel Rich 9.

Game 2 of the semi-finals are slated for this Thursday at 8 p.m. at BCC. (AS)

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