By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Mail Boat Cybots were in this same situation last year when they took an early 2-0 lead, but only to watch as the Commonwealth Bank Giants rebounded to eventually win the New Providence Basketball Association men’s title.
In the rematch of the best-of-seven championship series, the Cybots surged to a 97-86 triumph over the Giants at the AF Adderley Gym on Wednesday night to snatch the early 1-0 lead. Game two is slated to be played tonight with game three starting 8pm Saturday.
“We expected to play the way we did tonight,” said Cybots’ assistant coach Lavar Johnson. “It was kind of what we expected.”
Said Brian “Tucker” Bain: “Playing against a team like the Giants, you have to take game one. We know that they are a very strong team. They have core players with basically two starting fives. When one team goes out, another team has a player who can come in and score 20 points. The key to this series is to take game one, which we did and then try to steal game two, which we hope to do on Friday.”
The Cybots actually turned things around in their favour in the second half after watching the Gaints’ Michael ‘Ferly’ Bain light up the nets for 17 points and Jeffrey Henfield came off the bench and contributed nine as they took a 49-42 advantage at the half.
After trailing behind by as much as 11 in the third quarter, the Cybots were able to battle back to even the score a couple of times. It wasn’t until David Taylor canned a jumper at the end of a 10-2 spurt in the first four minutes of the fourth that the Cybots went ahead 75-74 for good.
However, in the final three minutes, the Cybots went on another 13-6 rout that enabled them to stay ahead for the victory, thanks to the Giants’ inability to take care of the ball, making a few costly turnovers and failing to convert their free throw shots down the stretch.
Eugene Bain led a balanced scoring attack with 18 points and 13 rebounds, including some big shots when it counted the most in the final spree. Brian Bain scored 15 points, David Taylor ended up with 13 and both Nelson ‘Mandella’ Joseph and Garvin Lightbourne had 12 apiece. Ernest Saunders had eight points and both Ahmad Bootle and Jermaine Storr contributed seven.
For the Giants, Michael Bain canned a game high 26 points with five rebounds, Jeffrey Henfield added 19 points and Ricardo Pierre chipped in with 10. Jackson Jacob had eight points, Denykco Bowles seven and Gamaliel Rose six points with as many rebounds.
Giants’ coach Perry Thompson said that while it was a disappointing loss, they are not discouraged because it was just game one.
“We worked on a lot of things in practice last night, but unfortunately the guys didn’t execute what we practiced,” Thompson said. “Hats off to the Cybots. We came back and they played well and they won the game.”
If his Giants correct their mistakes, Thompson said he doesn’t see why they can’t even the series tonight and get prepared to take the upper hand on Saturday when the second and third games are played respectively.
Henfield concurred with his coach, noting that they got away from the game plan that they executed in the first half.
“We were playing pretty good defense until the last three minutes,” he said. “We just need to play better defense and hit our free throws. Offensively, we could score. It’s just that we need to step it up some more defensively and we can get back into the series.”
Lavar Simmons, who assisted head coach Wayde Watson, said once their Cybots play the type of defense that they did in game one, they should be okay.
“We always believe that in order to win a championship, you have to play defense,” he said. “We obviously have to go back to the drawing board and try to find a way to stop the other guys. Mark Hanna had an off night and Gamaliel Rose had a bad night. So defensively, we have to pick up our intensity and keep it to a low scoring game and we should be okay.”
Perry Thompson, on the other hand, said if his Giants can play up to their potential tonight, they should be back in the flow of things.