Marian Academy held their composure to come from behind and win the Georgetown ‘City’ Confer-ence Championship trophy last Sunday in their match against St Stanislaus College in the Youth Basketball Guyana (YBG)/ National Sports Commission (NSC) Schools’ National Basketball Festival finals. Saints seemingly caught the ‘Miami Heat Syndrome’, amassing a 13-point lead with 13 minutes left in the game, but as fate would have it, individual talent eventually failed to out play great team basketball when Marian came back to win the game 59-70.
Saints opened the lead in the final minutes of the first half which ended 37-29 and expanded it to 50-37 in the opening minutes of the second half as their star player; Neil Gordon, overflowing with confidence, blew kisses to his screaming fans while taking free throws. However, a strategic timeout by Marian’s coach, Chris Bowman changed the game as Marian returned with a renewed sense of purpose playing lockdown defence that totally shut down Gordon. Similar to the Heats, Saints looked bewildered about how to close out their opponents in the final minutes of the game and allowed Marian back into the game.
Marian’s guard, Ruel Ritch initiated their comeback by leading the team with a series of stylish crossovers to either create his own shot or easy opportunities for his teammates. He ended on 15 points while Jequan Vieira supported him with clutch shots in the second period to accumulate 24 points at the end of the game. Gordon ended with a game high 30 points and was supported by Kevin Higgins 13 points and Lorenzo Bethune eight points and 14 rebounds.
“At first…I was a bit nervous, knowing that I had to play one of the best teams in Saints but I became more comfortable especially during this game, but going into the festival our main focus will be the out-of-town teams such as the Linden teams and Kwakwani,” Ritch told Stabroek Sport. “This is my final year and I’m going all out to win the whole tournament,” he added.
During the time out, Bowman said he urged his team to remain positive at the start of the second half of the game.
“The main thing was to not panic and get back to doing the things we do well. We have been averaging close to 30 point wins over teams and we needed to settle and do what we do well and the guys came up big,” he said. “We needed a moment where we were tested and we would not have been helped if we did not get any adversity and the team responded well, so full credit to the team and to our fans that came out to support us that kept motivating us,” Bowman added.
Prior to the final, in a supporting game, Plaisance Secondary School outdid School of the Nations 70-45
with the unstoppable Nikkoli Smith demonstrating his superior skills by scoring 28 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
He was backed up by Nicholas Cassius and Denzel Nurse who scored 13 and 10 points respectively. Dino Choo-Wee-Man was the only player who scored double figures for Nations with 22 points. At the presentation ceremony held immediately after the games at held at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall, Bethune was given the Defensive Player of the Conference Award; Gordon, the Leading Scorer Award, and Ritch was named the MVP. In his address, Digicel Events and Sponsorship Manager Gavin Hope said he was “very impressed with the level of play…so I would like to congratulate all the players and wish you guys the best and hope that Marian since they are champions can bring back the Festival trophy to Georgetown.” The Festival will kick into high gear from Friday as out-of-town teams will be challenging their Georgetown counterparts in the finals.