Just when everyone thought that they had seen it all, night after night this competition just keeps getting better.
Friday night at the Cliff Anderson Sports hall before a packed crowd, Dyna’s Ravens stopped Pepsi Sonics 74-70 in overtime while Amelia’s Ward Jets blew past Beepat Scorpions 74-56 to become the first two teams to advance to the semi-finals of the Next Level basketball tournament.
The Cliff Anderson Sports Hall was transformed into an NBA-like arena during the Ravens/Sonics clash.
Knowing the bitter blood that flowed between the two sides coming into the game, an all out war was expected and the fans got their monies worth.
And afterwards, Ravens hailed power forward Sariah Clarke as the hero who saved the day after his controversial lay-up with time expiring at the end of regulation that sent the game into overtime.
Ravens, who struggled offensively in their first match, looked the same way in the initial stages of the game as their primary scorers, Darcell Harris, Kevin Lawrence and Ryan Gullen failed to finish on some easy-scoring opportunities.
Sonics on the other hand, came out in an explosive form and took the game to their opponents to lead 10-4 at the end of the first quarter.
But thanks to some good coaching from Lugard Mohan, Ravens clawed their way back into the game.
They outscored the Sonics to tie the score at 28 at half time.
It was then that the vociferous crowd at the venue was brought to its feet and remained standing until the last horn was sounded as the two teams attacked each other relentlessly.
Play began swinging for Ravens late in the fourth quarter as Harris finally found his range and rained some bombs from downtown.
However, the Sonics players held their composure and stayed in the game.
The contest became more interesting when Ravens’ center Damien Liverpool fouled Jason Squires after missing what could be deemed a game-winning basket with the scoreboard reading 62-61 in favour of Pepsi Sonics with just about five seconds remaining in the game.
Luckily for Ravens, Squires was overwhelmed by the boos and chants from supporters and missed the first shot, scoring the second.
This saw Harris collecting the inbound and making the pass to Kevin Lawrence who found the sure hands of Clarke who scored on the buzzer.
Fans from both teams engulfed the playing area in celebration but the occasion took a dramatic turn that soured the faces of the Sonics and their supporters.
FIBA-accredited referee Sherwin Henry, after consultation with the table officials, declared that the basket was good and the game would go an extra five minutes in overtime with the scores tied at 63.
It was in overtime that the Ravens flew away from the Sonics who lost their speed and from their body language, they seemed to have given up.
Harris finished with 14 points while Gullen and Clarke had 11 points each.
Squires had 13 points and Trevor Smith, nine, for Sonics.
The opening match was a one-sided affair as the Linden team, who seemed to turn up with a stealth bomber jet, blew past the Scorpions flying above their radar.
Scorpions appeared non-venomous and they failed to stop the Jets who went on a scoring rampage from jump ball.
At half time, the city team was down 24 points (49-35) and things never got better for the Scorpions who could only stand watching while the Jets ruled the court.
Jets’ point guard Kevin Joseph clinically displayed his excellent ball handling skills to fans by evading the defence using his lethal cross overs and nailing his jump shots like a true marksman.
He ended the game with 23 points while Delbert Caesar shot 14 and national youth player Akeem Kanhai, a crafty 12 points.
For the Scorpions Trevor McLeod shot 17 while Rawle Toney and Daren Thomas scored 12 and 11 points respectively.