By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Commonwealth Bank Giants got their championship rings and then they polished off their title as they knocked off last year’s runners-up Mail Boat Cybots 98-87 at the AF Adderley Gymnasium.
It was the start of the New Providence Basketball Association’s 2014/15 season on Saturday night and both teams came out with revamped line-ups in their rematch after the Giants came from behind to complete a back-end four game sweep over the Cybots for the title.
League president Keith ‘Belzee’ Smith and Bishop Arnold Josey presented the Giants with their rings just before the start of the game. During the game, it was a see-saw battle as the teams tried to work on their rotations before the Giants got it all together to prevail at the end.
“We lost quite a number of players, but we were fortunate to gain quite a number of players,” said Giants’ head coach Perry Thompson Sr. “Like I told the guys, it may have been a short space of time, but we just have to work together to get used to one another and it kind of paid off for us tonight.”
Despite the juggling in their line-up, Commonwealth Bank’s offence was centred around the return of swingman Michael ‘Furley’ Bain, who got injured during the regular season and had to watch the postseason on the sidelines on crutches.
Bain, showing signs that he’s healthy again, exploded for a side high 29 points with six rebounds, three assists and as many steals in an all-around performance that was joined by newcomer Kevin Hinsey’s 28 points, eight rebounds and four steals.
“It was just what we expected. We were a little bit sluggish as a team, but the Cybots had a lot of new faces as I noticed, but it was good for us to start the season off with a win,” said Bain on his return to the league.
No other player was in double figures, but the Giants also got nine points with six rebounds from Travis Ramsey, eight points, seven rebounds and six assists from Jeffery Henfield and six apiece from Samuel Johnson, Stephen Miller and Robson Memmon.
The Giants also seemed to be more aggressive on the offensive end with the newly acquired backcourt tandem of Alvardo ‘Kobe’ Burrows and Lyndrack Storr as they made their presence felt, either together or separately. They also saw the return of forward Denykco Bowles, who missed the majority of last season because of an injury.
“The team this year is a lot faster. We may not be as skilled as we were last year, but the guys here now are full of energy and that could take us all the way,” Bain said.
It was a different story on the other side of the coin.
Mail Boat only returned three players after last year’s dismal finish in the final. But they added Jeremy Hutchinson from Commonwealth Bank, who provided a much bigger front court with Eugene Bain and offseason acquisitions of Cordero Seymour and Delano ‘Yao’ Knowles.
Eugene Bain came off the bench and ignited the Cybots with a game high 32 points, 18 rebounds and four assists. Hutchinson led three other players in double figures with 13 points.
Ernest Saunders also came off the bench and scored 12 points with four steals and four assists, Ahmad Bootle had 10 points and seven rebounds and Seymour contributed 10 points with 12 rebounds. Knowles, who was limited to foul trouble, had five rebounds as he went scoreless.
After the loss, coach Wayde Watson said they will have to go back to the drawing board.
“We look bad,” was how he described their performance. “I have to watch the film to see exactly what went wrong, but we wasn’t getting anything from the outside and the guys wasn’t getting the ball on the inside.
“When we tried to make the adjustment, it was too late. We have to go back to the drawing board to see where we can find some chemistry. I have a lot of rookies to work with this year, but I’m confident that we will eventually get it together.”
In the backcourt, Watson started newly acquired Angelo Lockhart to run with Ahmad Bootle, one of the few returning players. He also picked up Lerecus Armbrister and Delvonne Duncombe made his return after a brief hiatus.’
The Giants opened the first quarter with a 24-12 lead and they stayed out front after the two other breaks. The Cybots took a 77-76 lead in the fourth before the Giants went on to pull away for the victory in the final five minutes.
“We are going to go one game at a time. That is our objective. Hopefully once we get the chemistry together, I still think we will be a formidable force in the league this year,” Thompson said.
“Everybody figures that because we lost a lot of key players, the Giants won’t even make the playoffs. That’s the talk on the streets. But the young guys who came in are hungry and they are here to prove a point.”
The league, with a total of 11 teams participating, divided into the two divisions are as follows: Vince Ferguson Division - Cybots, Real Deal Shockers, College of the Bahamas Caribs, Pyramid Food Rockets, Island Luck Pros and Patron Regulators and in the John Archer Division - Giants, Rythm Rebels, PJCS Stingers, Y-Care Wreckers and the Double R Services Limited Cleaners.
Here’s this week’s schedule:
7:30pm - Double R Services Limited Cleaners vs Pyramid Food Rockets
9pm - Island Luck Pros vs Rythm Rebels at 9pm
7:30pm - Y-Care Wreckers vs Real Deal Shockers
9pm - Patron Regulators vs Commonwealth Bank Giants
7:30pm - Double R Service Ltd Cleaners vs College of the Bahamas Caribs
9pm - PJ’s Stingers vs Pyramid Food Rockets
7:30pm - Island Luck Pros vs Commonwealth Bank Giants
9pm - Real Deal Shockers vs Rythm Rebels