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GSSSA: Rattlers close out season strong

FINISHING STRONG: The CI Gibson Rattlers, senior boys defending champions, wrapped up the 2024 Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA) basketball regular season with an undefeated record and as the pennant winners.

FINISHING STRONG: The CI Gibson Rattlers, senior boys defending champions, wrapped up the 2024 Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA) basketball regular season with an undefeated record and as the pennant winners.

By TENAJH SWEETING

Tribune Sports Reporter

tsweeting@tribunemedia.net

THE CI Gibson Rattlers senior girls and boys closed out the Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA) basketball regular season in good standing on Friday.

The Lady Rattlers, the defending champions, asserted their dominance against the Anatol Rodgers High School Timberwolves senior girls in a wire-to-wire 80-16 blowout victory.

Meanwhile, the reigning senior boys’ champions ended their season undefeated after handing the Timberwolves their first and final loss of the regular season in a finals rematch at the Kendal GL Isaacs Gymnasium.

Senior Boys

The Rattlers laid waste to the Timberwolves 66-59 in a game that was closer than the final score reflected.

Both teams stepped onto the hardwood with undefeated records, but it was the Timberwolves who would leave with one loss on the season and the Rattlers come away as the pennant winners.

Rattlers head coach Kevin “KJ” Johnson was happy to close out yet another regular season with his team as the pennant winners and with a spotless record.

“This is the second time, last year we were but, at the end of the day, we have got to go into the playoffs with a mindset that it is a new day, a new ballgame. We have to reset and get better, especially on the free shots and taking care of the basketball,” coach Johnson said.

With both teams hungry to be crowned the pennant winners, last year’s final two senior boys’ squads were tied 27 apiece at the half-time break.

The see-saw affair shifted in the Rattlers’ favour in the third period as the team moved ahead 36-29 follow- ing a crowd-pleasing dunk. The defending champions then capitalised on the shift in momentum to lead by 11 at the 3:12 mark and wrapped up the quarter 49-39.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, it seemed as if the Timberwolves’ offence had stalled while the Rattlers’ had kicked into high gear. The reigning champions ran out 52-39 following a series of missed buckets by the Timberwolves.

However, the latter would not go down without a fight and climbed back into the game after consec- utive makes from three and a crafty layup.

After trailing behind by as much as 13 points, the Timberwolves closed in 55-52 with 4:14 on the clock.

Coach Johnson said at this juncture of the contest he reminded the team that they were still in the lead but had to take care of the rock.

“I told the guys we were up, just to take care of the basketball because we were turning the basketball over. We went up by almost 14 points but we got relaxed and careless with the basketball.

“I think we had four or five turnovers and Anatol capitalised on at least four of those turnovers, that’s why they were able to get back into the game.

“We were tough enough and pulled it out by seven or eight points. We are gonna go back to the draw- ing board and get better,” the coach said.

The team received the message and responded with an 8-0 run to dish out the final blow of the game. The Timberwolves had a last minute chance to bring the game within four in crunch time but were unsuc- cessful on two attempts at the charity stripe.

Tashan Butler got to work in the high stakes game. He dropped a game- high 26 points with 13 scored in the final period to put away the Timberwolves. On the opposite end of the court, Xavier Thompson led the Timberwolves with 10 points.

The Rattlers will open the 2024 GSSSA sudden death playoffs against the fourth seeded CR Walker Knights on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Timber- wolves play the third seeded CC Sweeting Cobras.

Senior Girls

In the opening game of Friday’s double header, the Lady Rattlers earned a comfortable win against the Timberwolves. They charged ahead early with an unbelievable 50-0 run, capitalising on sloppy turnovers and dismal transition defence by their opponents in the first half.

The senior girls of Anatol Rodgers got into the game with a bank three-pointer at the 4:30 mark of the third, making the score 54-3.

The Rattlers outscored their opponents entire second half total of 16 points with 18 of their own in the final quarter to put the nail in the coffin.

Jada Francis, last season’s MVP, powered her way to a game-high 25 points. She poured in 16 points in the first half alone. Philipa Ferguson was equally as impressive, scoring 14 of her 18 points in the first segment of the contest.

Coach Johnson was impressed with the latest win by the senior girls.

“It feels very good to close out the season on a strong note. We just gotta continue to get better as a team and hopefully we will give ourselves a chance to get back into the champion- ships and a chance to win. We have to be ready for the playoffs so hopefully with this win and practicing until next week, we will be good to go,” he said.

The team will face the third seeded Lady Knights on Thursday in the sudden death round.

The 2024 GSSSA sudden death basketball play- offs begin on Tuesday at the same venue. The pennant winning CV Bethel Stingrays will face the Pacers in the senior girls’ will be played by the junior CI Gibson Gymnasium, fourth seeded RM Bailey division. Make up games boys and girls today at the starting at 4pm.

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