Ryan Stephney produced a Most Valuable Player-like showing as Pitbulls successfully defended its Mackeson 3×3 basketball title, defeating arch-rivals Pacesetters-A 17-15 in the national finale at the East Ruimveldt Court on Friday.
With the scores locked 14-14 and both sides over the allotted foul limit, Stephney would be the catalyst for a game clinching 3-1 run in the final seconds of the fixture.
Sent to the free-throw line to shoot two attempts after Pacesetters-A had earlier accumulated their 10th foul of the matchup, Stephney would clinically net both shots to the accompaniment of loud screams from the opposing viewership to give his side a 16-14 lead.
Maintaining possession of the ball due to Pacesetters-A 10th infringement, the diminutive Stephney would then put the game beyond the reach of his adversaries with a silky layup after dribbling his marker to finish the fixture with 11 points.
In earlier moments of the matchup, Pacesetters-A raced off to a 7-3 lead through the combination of Travis Burnette and Royston Siland who constantly attacked the rim, putting Pitbulls in early foul trouble.
The momentum of the match would change with 5:40s left on the clock as Pacesetters-A accumulated their seventh foul. Stephney would then take advantage of their opponent’s hesitancy to get physical, leading his side on a 9-3 run inclusive of a critical two-point play from a layup as they took the lead at 12-10 with 3:14s left to play.
Burnette would then tie the matchup seconds later at 13-13 as he netted two free-throws following Pitbulls’ seventh foul. The defending champs would then fail to capitalize on a chance to go ahead at 1:42s as Akeem `The Dream’Kanhai missed two free-throws with scores locked on 14-14.
However the cream always rises to the top as Stephney made up for the earlier miss of his team-mate, driving his side to a 3-1 final run to seal their second consecutive championship.
Due to the win, Pitbulls walked away with the championship trophy and $500,000 while Pacesetters will pocket $300,000 and the runners-up accolade. Each zone winner will also receive $25,000 respectively.
In the earlier matchup, Pitbulls clinched their berth to the finale after overcoming Colts-A by a 15-10 score line in the group-B finale.
Leading 9-5 with 4:04 left on the clock of the 10 minute encounter, Pitbulls would see their lead reduced as Dave Causeway netted two free-throws following the eventual winners accumulating their seventh foul. However, that would be the closest they would get to overcoming the champs as Stephney once more piloted a late offensive run, netting two free-throws and a layup in the final minute as they outscored their adversaries 6-3 to close out the matchup.
Pacesetters-A had earlier crushed TRS Raptors in the group-A finale by a 14-5 score line to earn their final’s place.
Keenly contested at the half way stage with the scores 5-3 in favour of Pacesetters-A, the eventual runners-up would put some daylight between themselves and the opposition closing out the game with a 9-2 run.
Ball movement followed by interior penetration highlighted the second half rout as Burnette led the assault with nine points through four layups, four free-throws and a mid-range jump shot.
In the other matchups, Pitbulls overcame a Nikkoloi Smith shooting offensive to defeat Colts-B 10-9 while crushing Linden unit Jets 10-2 in their opening fixture. Pacesetters-A also maintained a perfect record until their loss in the final, defeating Royals 10-9 and Den Amstel 12-2.
The third matchup of the night saw TRS Raptors crushing Den Amstel 11-1 while Colts-A hammered Jets 16-6 in the eighth fixture. Colts-A would then edge team mates Colts-B 9-7 in the fourth showdown while TRS Raptors made light work of the disappointing Royals 16-1.