By Rawle Toney
Starting this evening the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall will be the venue of one of the biggest basketball tournaments in Guyana.
The third Next Level Entertaiment tournament featuring 16 teams from Linden and Georgetown gets underway tonight and the event is set to revive the Linden/Georgetown rivalry which has been simmering for some time.
Fans can be assured of battles galore since clubs from both sides have been talking the talk.
The question is, can they walk the walk?
In tonight’s fixtures Wismar Pistons are down to face Demerara Panthers while Dyna’s Ravens will clash with the Amelia’s Ward Ballers.
The Pistons are one of the strongest teams from Linden and their capabilities are known to the city teams since they are also Guyana’s national club champions.
Coached by Raphael Damon they are entering the tournament as one of the top seeded teams.
This will not be the first time the Panthers are facing the Pistons.
Prior to playing in the Georgetown Amateur Basketball Association (GABA), they were part of the Linden Basketball Association (LABA) during the previous administration.
The Panthers, unlike the Pistons, who are enjoying a fruitful tournament in Linden, finished the GABA league without securing a win and one can predict an early exit for the young team.
The Pistons will rely heavily on their big three players; point guards Trevor Profit and Nevin Grenville and forward Quincy Jones, the backbone of the team.
However, the game of the evening will Ravens against the tournament debutants.
The Linden team has waged war on the Ravens with their coach Floyd Martindale stating that they are not afraid and the game will be like the story of David and Goliath with them (Ballers) being David. But the Ravens side that played in the finals of the first installation of the tournament in 2006 is more focused on taking one game at a time and on bringing the title back home.
Unlike the Linden team, whose players are still struggling to find some form in the present LABA league, the Ravens have a cast of players who are among the best in the country.
Point guard Darcell Harris and Ryan Stepheny will marshal the back court while the sharp shooting Kevin Lawrence, forward Ryan Gullen and centre Damien Liverpool are expected to man the front.
Prior to the start of the tournament, the organizers met with the clubs from both Linden and Georgetown who gave assurances of their readiness to put on an exciting show for the Guyanese public.
However, the Linden clubs had indicated that they wre not happy with the level of officiating which is a matter of concern in the sport and are calling for the officials to be neutral.
Dennis Clarke, appointed by the Guyana Amateur Basketball Federation to oversee the tournament, said he understood their concerns and asked that the clubs work with the resources at hand. At present, he said, three officials from Georgetown pulled out at the last moment because of a dispute with the Georgetown association but promised that the calls will be fair.
He also said that there will be a match commission at every game to ensure the smooth running of the tournament.
The winner of this year’s tournament will pocket $300,000 while second place will take home $200,000, third place $100,000 and fourth place $50,000.