For the third time in over a year and a half, Dyna’s Ravens will clash with Kashif and Shanghai Kings in what is expected to be the ‘hottest’ game of the Next Level basketball tournament.
The two teams are scheduled to meet at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall tonight in what is being described as a virtual final while Amelia’s Ward Jets will oppose Victory Valley Royals in another keen contest. The intense rivalry between Kings and Ravens is no secret. Over the years they have thrilled fans who watched them go at each other hammer and tongs.
Tonight is expected to be no different. On the previous two occasions the two teams met the Kings ruled.
However, the coaches of both teams are not thinking about the past, but the future with the sole intention of claiming the $300,000 first prize.
Abdulla ‘Zico’ Hamid, player/coach of the Linden side, said that his team has done its homework on Ravens since a lot has changed about the club since the two sides last met in the national club championships where Kings knocked Ravens out at the semi-final stage.
“We came into the tournament treating every game as a final since we have not played together over the past seven months. You would find that we were a bit rusty in the first game, but we did the job and we kept improving after every match,” said Hamid.
Kings, who feed mostly off their star five – Omally Sampson, Hamid, Jason Alonzo, Marvin Hartman and Steve Neils Jnr., – have found it difficult to get an offensive flow.
They have instead relied on their experience and defence to guide them home.
Ravens coach Lugard Mohan, a former national player and captain, acknowledged that this was one of the strong points of the Linden side.
“The Kings have tremendous experience in the front court and I’ve noticed that this has been their strong point in this tournament. These are the guys (Hamid, Hartman and Neils jnr.,) who have been doing the damage mostly because most of their games came down to the wire and they won it,” said Mohan.
“Not everybody scored well but we used our experience and our most experienced players. But this time we want to change our offensive strategy. We want our big man (Alonzo) to get going and if he does we know the Ravens will have a game on their hand,” Hamid said.
Ravens are the only team from Georgetown remaining in the tournament and Mohan said that would be a morale booster for his men.
“We are not thinking about this, but I think it would be heartening to hear some ‘yeas and goes’ coming from the Georgetown supporters because most of the times they don’t like my side. So to have them all throwing their weight behind us I think my players would be very happy and it would put more enthusiasm in their game hopefully.” And, in light of what has become a deepening grudge over the past year, Jets and Royals are expected to thrill the spectators.
Led by the prolific Dwayne “Brown Sugar” Roberts, the Royals have shown that they have what it takes to lift the NLE title.
The Jets, who have been displaying great team chemistry in the tournament, are also a force to be reckoned with. Unlike Royals, who throughout the tournament have been depending on the in-form Roberts, Jets have players who seem to know their role on the team.
National youth player Akeem Kanhai, Neil Simon and Kevin Joseph are the offense arm of the battalion while the Webster brothers take control of defense.
But Royals are slightly stronger on defense since Roberts also has the services of his fellow power forward, Lawrence Da Costa who is very strong playing the boards.
At present both sides are joint leaders of the current Linden Amateur Basketball Association (LABA) league.