By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WHEN Najee Winder went down with an injury, coach Nekeno ‘Keno’ Demeritte knew he needed somebody else to step up and take over the game for his Temple Christian Academy Suns primary boys basketball team.
Lamar Watkins Jr answered the call, hitting a three-pointer with just 12 seconds left to seal a 43-41 nail-biting victory over Carlton E Francis to secure the third annual Bahamas Gold Trading title at the Temple Academy Gym on Friday.
The Suns retained the title that they relinquished a year ago to the Mt Carmel Crusaders, who opted not to return to defend their title.
It was a double dose of victory for Demeritte as his Suns girls kept the title at Temple Christian Academy as they held off Freedom Academy in a close encounter as well.
“We’re just glad to bring it back home for the second year,” Demeritte said. “The games were really exciting, so we’re happy that we were able to win.”
According to Brandino Brown, the performances by the teams was an indication of why they made the investment in the tournament.
“Every year, it just encourages me to keep pushing,” Brown said. “This helps to keep the kids off the street, but it also shows us the amount of talent that is out there. I really enjoy seeing the kids do what they do.”
Suns 43, Carlton E Francis 41
In a game that saw the lead switch hands numerous times, Winder came through at the right time after Winder had to leave the game nursing a cut on the right side of his face when his head hit the ground as he tried to retrieve a loose ball.
All Winder did was pull up outside of the three-point arch for the biggest shot of the game to put Temple Christian up for good.
“I was very happy that I hit the shot to win the game,” Watkins Jr said. “I was scared (after Najee got hurt). I knew the shot was going to go. I felt good. The team played excellent. We won the championship.”
Watkins finished with seven points but it was Winder who canned 20 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter, as the Suns rallied from a 26-23 margin at the end of the third.
Winder, who had to seek medical attention right after the game, ended up being selected as the most valuable player.
Rolian Santilus also contributed eight points in the win.
Carlton E Francis got 10 points a piece from Garvin Clarke and Stephon Smith, while Javon Woodside added four.
Said coach Sherman Smith: “It’s their tournament, so they could control the outcome,” he said. “There were two times when the clock didn’t move. It was at 20 seconds and they came back with 14 minutes. They didn’t start the clock, but it was hard to complain to anybody. My boys played hard. We just didn’t win. But I thank God for them. They played hard. We just didn’t win. Thank God for them. We are not discouraged. We will be back.”
The game was tied 7-7 after the first quarter and although it was evened at 9-9 in the second, the Suns had to come back with a pair of free throws from Moss to trim the deficit to 14-13 at the half.
Carlton E Francis managed to open a slight lead in the third, thanks to a big three-pointer from Stephon Smith.
But in the fourth, Winder went on a scoring rampage before he went down with the injury and Watkins took over.
Suns 28, Freedom Academy 12
This one was pretty much over from the first quarter as Temple Christian went on a 9-0 scoring spurt, highlighted by Tyler Lightbourne’s seven.
The Suns went on to increase their lead to 13-0 before Freedom Academy finally got on the scoreboard with a three-pointer from Kevonne McCaulsky.
Temple Christian went on to post a 21-5 advantage at the half and, in the third, they again shut out Freedom Academy on a 4-0 run for a 25-5 lead at the end of the period as coach Demeritte used his entire bench.
To make matters worse, the starters began the fourth, maintaining their lead at 28-9 before the subs were re-inserted to finish off the job.
“It feels really good. I thought we played a very solid game,” Lightbourne said. “Our shooting and passing wasn’t that accurate, but we still managed to win.”
Lightbourne, who was named the MVP, had a game high 16 points and Tania Arthur chipped in with 11.
In a losing effort, Brianna LaFrance, who was the victim of a double team all game, managed to get free to at least score a side high nine. McCaulsky only had three.
“We did the best that we could,” said coach Sherman Smith after the loss. “That was the luck of the draw.”
On their way to the final, here’s how the teams survived:
Suns B 33, Suns A 19
Najee Winder and Roland Saintilus scored 11 and 10 respectively to pace Temple Christian to victory over their peers. Nathan Moss had a game high 15 in the loss.
Carlton E. Francis 26, Palmdale 12
Garvin Clarke and Stephon Smith both had a game high 10 points and Javon Woodside added four in the win.
Suns 28, Carlton E. Francis 4
Tania Arthur had a game high 16 and Talia Lightbourne 10 to pull off the win for Temple Christian. Ashlee and Anya Farrington both had two in the loss.
Freedom Academy 13, Palmdale 6
Kevonne McCaulsky scored eight and Brianna LaFrance had seven in the win. Alexis Sweeting and Volala Archer both had two in the loss.