By Floyd Christie
Central McKenzie advanced to the finals of the Mackeson National Super Wards Basketball Championships when they ousted defending champions North Ruimveldt on Sunday night in the tournament’s first semi-final.
In what was one of the lowest scoring games of the tournament the defending inter-ward champions were completely shutdown and recorded the lowest total of the tournament to date when they crumbled to Central McKenzie 56-49 in the feature game of the evening at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall.
North Ruimveldt came into the game on a high after crushing Linden’s other top ward, Christianburg the night before, but the tiring effects of back-to-back games seemed to have led to their downfall.
The offensive flare and defensive intensity they displayed the previous night were not present Sunday night and Central McKenzie didn’t hesitate to capitalize on the situation.
North Ruimveldt, however, got the better of their opponents from the start in a somewhat low-scoring first quarter as Central McKenzie couldn’t take advantage of some good looks at the basket and were only able to net five points in the entire first quarter which closed 11-5.
Central Mackenzie picked up their usual disciplined performance in the second quarter, and North Ruimveldt’s resistance on defence began to wither even as their guard Darcel Harris stepped up his efficiency and produced some much needed field goals throughout the second period. The inter-ward champs began to look less like the well-rounded, game-winning side as in their previous match-ups and the scores were within two at the halftime buzzer.
The Linden squad, along with their fans, was much more energized since North Ruimveldt now only led 23-21. The teams traded baskets at the top of the key but Central McKkenzie continued getting the better of their opponents on the inside although their centre Jason Alonzo was confined to the bench following an injury to his left eye in the second quarter.
The final quarter began with the scores 39-34 and North Ruimveldt were still very much in the game. Central Mackezie, however, were not about to go down the same path as in their last game when they folded to pressure in the fourth quarter and they increased their advantage on the scoreboard with the help of some big outside shots from Steve Neils Jnr and Marvin Hartman.
With the clock counting down and Central McKenzie’s lead extending, North Ruimveldt resorted to a number of outside shots, most of which were unsuccessful. Chants of “defence” echoed from the Central McKenzie supporters, some of whom travelled all the way from Linden. North Ruimveldt then became the victims of the same intensive defence they utilized earlier against so many teams in the tournament. Harris closed the final period with a huge shot way outside the arc on the buzzer, but it was a little too late for the North Ruimveldt side and they fell short by seven points. Neils and Hartman once again reproduced their top scoring performance in their last game with 19 and 17 points respectively. They were assisted by Omally Sampson’s 12 points.
Meanwhile, North Ruimveldt’s scorecard was not at all impressive. Their captain Darcel Harris was the only player in double figures with 14 points. Major players like Ryan Stephney, Ryan Gullen and Stephon Henry only managed six points each.
In an exhibition game earlier in the evening, Melanie Patriots got the better of Colours Panthers 68-52.
Floyd Arthur scored a game high 26 points for the Patriots while Ian Kilem and Alvin Hooper netted 20 and 15 points respectively for Panthers.
The next semi-final game is slated for Thursday between Albouystown/ Char-lestown and Christianburg at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall.
The winner of this match will meet Central McKenzie in the finals on May 4.