By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Commonwealth Bank Giants came from the brink of elimination in two straight games against the MailBoat Cybots and now the New Providence Basketball Association (NPBA) men's best-of-five championship series will go down to a fifth and deciding game for all the marbles at the DW Davis gym tonight.
There is an old myth that it's not how you start but how you finish. And, for the second straight night, the Giants showed why they are the two-time defending champions as they staved off elimination by stunning the Cybots with a 75-68 victory on Saturday night.
"Like I told the guys, the game for us to go to the next game was important for us. There's no game like tonight. This was a pivotal game," said Giants' coach Perry Thompson. "It's do or die, the guys stood up to the test. I'm very happy that we came out with the victory."
The Giants, playing both elimination games after the Easter holiday break without Michael 'Fernly' Bain, got a pair of baskets, including a three-point play, from Creto Knowles in the final two minutes before Gamalial Rose put the icing on the cake with two free throws in the winding 15 seconds to seal the win.
A reliable Mark Hanna paced the attack with 20 points, Rose finished with 13 and sharp shooter Ricardo Pierre connected on 12. Jackson Jacobs contributed nine, Adrian Miller had eight and both Knowles and Raif Ferguson ended up with five for the Giants.
Thompson said they are confident that they will secure the title tonight if they follow their instructions. "We get to play more defense," he said. "Like I told the guys, we have a lot of weapons but if we don't play well defensively, we won't win. We didn't do that in the first two games of the series."
Thompson said they now have the momentum on their side and they intend to take advantage of it tonight.
The Cybots opened a 25-16 lead at the end of the first quarter. After trailing 40-37 at the half, they were playing catch up the rest of the way. And even though they made a gallant comeback down the stretch, cutting the deficit to one - 65-64 with 2:28 left on the clock - the Giants were able to weather the storm and surged on for the victory.
Eugene Bain also produced 20 points in a losing effort. He was joined by Brian Bain with 15, Jermaine Storr with 10, Ernest Saunders nine and both Ahmad Bootle and Nelson 'Mandella' Joseph had five each.
Mailboat assistant coach Lavar Mackey said they just simply forgot to play defense.
"We just have to play better defense," he said. "The whole playoffs, everything was about runs, but if you don't play defense, you can't stop your opponent when they make their own. Now it's time for us to make our adjustment on the defense and come back and win like we did in the first two games."
But he noted that after watching the Giants storm back in the last two games, Monday night's battle won't be an easy one.