Team wins first GSSSA senior boys basketball title in 20 years
Daniel Lewis tracked down a long rebound, turned around and threw up what turned out to be the game-winning basket for his team, the R.M. Bailey Pacers, last night. The clean shot, put up with three seconds on the clock, sealed the first Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA) senior boys basketball title in 20 years for the Pacers. The team showed just why they were undefeated in the regular season with true form and resilience when they forced a third and decisive game on Tuesday with a 70-52 win.
It was this same ‘Pacer Pride’ that helped them overcome a 15-point first quarter deficit on Wednesday night. They returned the next quarter with fresh legs and a new attitude that turned the momentum around in their favor. Their biggest run, 10-2, in the fourth assisted with the 78-76 win over the C.C. Sweeting Cobras last night, taking the championship series two games to one.
The Pacers were able to outscore the Cobras 24-18 in the second quarter. They were led by Kenneth Pratt, who netted 15 points by half-time. Pratt was the only player for the Pacers in double figures. Roosevelt Whylley was the top scorer for the Cobras at the half, with 13 points, but the two fouls picked up early in the game came back to haunt him. By the third, coach Mario Bowleg had to sit him and teammate Patrick Davis on the bench.
The Cobras seemed to miss Whylley and Davis’ offensive contribution, as their shooting slump carried over into the fourth quarter. The full court press by the Pacers wasn’t helping the Cobras’ cause either, but that didn’t stop the team and Head Coach Nigel Ingraham from applying it more. The Pacers caused the Cobras to turn the ball over six times which forced Bowleg to use his last time-out.
When they returned to the court, the much taller Pacers squad took full control of both the offensive and defensive boards, but the pesky Cobras would not go away.
The lead would change hands four times in the fourth before Pratt stepped to the free throw line. He connected on one to give the team a 72-71 lead. Teammate Dario McKenzie came back with an 18-footer to extend the lead to three.
The faith of the game, for the Cobras, was now on shoulders Gabi Laurent who was 9-for-12 from the field and 5-for-7 from the free throw line. Laurent passed the ball to Saunders who drew the foul but missed both free throws.
With less than a minute to go, Laurent got the ball back to tie things up again and force overtime. The Pacers would hold the ball for a final shot in the waning seconds. With time winding down, Geovano Bethel’s three point attempt missed but Lewis was able to haul in a rebound and connect on a 12-foot jumper giving his team the win.
Ingraham said: ”We were never scared at no point in time. We always had faith, knowing that we could pull it off. We watched the movie Hurricane before the game and they were down by 20 points at half-time. After watching that movie and coming out here to play and when I saw us down, I got a chill, some cold bumps on me and I said that we will turn this game around too and win. We came in here and the same thing happened to us. I told my team to keep believing and pushing. I told them that there are obstacles in life and if you don’t believe that you can get over them you will actually shut yourself down. They kept believing and we pulled through.”
“I told them that we just need to keep executing, keep playing and that we needed to trap. We kept going to the trap because it was working. We were forcing a lot of turnovers and converting on our side, which was good. My assistant coach, Jack Knowles, came through big for me. This was a team effort and I would like to thank him and the players for believing and keeping the faith.”
Pratt was the top scorer in the game with 24 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Teammates Lewis and Lockhart chipped in with 15 and 12 points respectively. Laurent would lead all scorers for the Cobras with 23 points, Whylley closed with 16 points and Angelo Lockhart had 10 points.