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Chevy Lon­don emerged as Strak­er Nets’ se­cret weapon in help­ing them win game one of the Men’s Pre­mier Di­vi­sion Best-in-three se­ries fi­nal in the Bar­ry Stew­art Bas­ket­ball League on Thurs­day night at the Jean Pierre Com­plex in Mu­cu­rapo, Mu­cu­rapo.

Lon­don scored a team-high 23 points to lift Strak­er to a 75-69 vic­to­ry over De­tour Shak At­tack in the fea­tured match of a dou­ble-head­er pro­gramme. In the open­ing match, De­fence Force de­feat­ed Sto­ries of Suc­cess (SOS) Bas­ket­ball Acad­e­my, 105-92 to fin­ished third in the com­pe­ti­tion.

Lon­don did every­thing right, from steal­ing balls, forc­ing the op­po­nents to com­mit er­rors, pick­ing up loose balls, be­ing in the per­fect po­si­tion for re­bounds on both ends of the court to en­sure his team kept an un­blem­ished win record which has been ex­tend­ed to 15-0.

“I am hap­py with my per­for­mance. It was great hav­ing the sup­port of the team. It is all about the team, we sup­port each oth­er,” said Lon­don, mod­est­ly. “It was a to­tal team ef­fort.”

His out­stand­ing per­for­mance came in front of the one of the biggest crowd for the sea­son. Fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of play­ers from each team, T&T Olympic Com­mit­tee (TTOC) pres­i­dent Bri­an Lewis did the un­of­fi­cial jump ball. This af­ter Lewis and mem­bers of the league’s dis­ci­pli­nary com­mit­tee in­clud­ing Roslyn George, FI­BA com­mis­sion­er Kei­th Clement and for­mer De­fence Force coach Mervyn Jack­son met with play­ers from both fi­nal­ists.

When the match did get on the way, it was Shak At­tack win­ning the jump but strug­gled to con­nect a bas­ket, miss­ing four at­tempts to be ex­act with the cul­prits be­ing Kurt “Ko­to” Chris­t­ian, Miguel Williams, Shawn Lawrence and Reynold Hospedales, re­spec­tive­ly.

Strak­er used the op­por­tu­ni­ty to gain an ad­van­tage, lead­ing 4-0 be­fore Shak At­tack re­gained its com­po­sure and went on a 17-0 run, to lead 17-4, even­tu­al­ly clos­ing the first half up, 18-9.

It was in the sec­ond quar­ter that Lon­don came alive on both of­fence and de­fence, en­sur­ing that his team stayed com­pet­i­tive but Chris­t­ian, who al­ways comes good for Shak At­tack, was in great scor­ing form and kept his team ahead, hit­ting a three-point­er to main­tain his team’s lead at half­time, 38-32.

Coach Bar­ry Stew­art and his as­sis­tant Wayne “Con­crete” Sandy did well in analysing the first half and on the re­sump­tion, their Strak­er play­ers fol­lowed their in­struc­tions in ramp­ing up their de­fen­sive ef­fort, forc­ing a num­ber of turnovers which they con­vert­ed to points, main­ly from Lon­don, for­ward Jef­frey Har­ris (14) and post-play­er Mori­ba De Fre­itas (10). This led to Strak­er re-es­tab­lish­ing a com­fort­able 56-48 lead at the end of the third quar­ter, outscor­ing Shak At­tack 24-10.

Play re­mained in favour of Strak­er in­to the fourth quar­ter as Shak At­tack through the con­tri­bu­tions of Chris­t­ian, who end­ed with a match-high 27, and Lawrence (14) fought hard to di­min­ish their team’s deficit. How­ev­er, their ef­forts were side­tracked when their team­mate guard Or­lan­do Mapp was called for an un­sports­man­like foul.

Ref­er­ee Michael Wat­son in was in the per­fect po­si­tion to see Mapp step­ping on De Fre­itas, who had fall­en to the court af­ter just be­ing called for trav­el­ling while pen­e­trat­ing along the base­line. De Fre­itas went to the line and hit one of two to put his team ahead 64-56 with five min­utes and 17 sec­onds, re­main­ing in the match.

Shak At­tack had a num­ber of chances to re­duce its deficit in the dy­ing mo­ments of the match, get­ting to the free throw line but missed way too many free throws which coach Gor­don Fe­lix ad­mit­ted hurt them in the end.

“We have to fin­ish our free throws. Our free throws were poor tonight (Thurs­day),” said a dis­ap­point­ed Fe­lix. “It took the game away from us and if we could have closed it with the free throws We came back good but it didn’t hap­pen. Next game we have to play a lit­tle tougher and for­get the ta­ble of­fi­cials and the ref­er­ees.”

Tonight’s match will jump off at 7 pm at the same venue and if the se­ries goes to a de­cider it is set for to­mor­row. A win by Strak­er will see them crowned cham­pi­on of the sec­ond edi­tion of the league.

“The win was ex­cel­lent. It proves that our team could with­stand what­ev­er pres­sure the op­po­nents give. Shak At­tack has a tech­nique they nor­mal­ly use when they re­alise their backs against the wall, they go phys­i­cal” said Sandy, fol­low­ing the match. “We run them out of the court and next game we will do the same.”

Ear­li­er in the play­off match for third place, and im­pres­sive 30 three-point­ers were scored in the com­pet­i­tive af­fair but it was the army/coast­guard com­bi­na­tion team, who had the sup­port of na­tion­al se­nior foot­ball coach Den­nis Lawrence, a for­mer mem­ber of the De­fence Force, that pre­vailed with the 13-point win.

Lead­ing the way for De­fence Force were De­r­ick Box­hill (22), Ker­ry McMil­lan (20), Kens­ley Sandy (17) while twin broth­ers Ah­keel and Ah­keem Boyd were best for SOS with 25 points each.

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