By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
A dubious distinction of being swept in the inaugural BVI Basketball Federation District Basketball League Championships Series will not be among the historical notes in either division, in the first league since Hurricane Irma in 2017.
After an 85-80 Friday night opening loss and a 92-67 setback in the first championships game ever played in Virgin Gorda on Saturday, the No 6 seeded A’s—in their first championships series in 38 years—ended the Virgin Gorda Bayside Blazers unbeaten run through the league, playoffs, semifinals and championships series at 15 games, with a 76-67 Sunday night victory in Road Town.
“Definitely, I took this (very) personal because they were chanting all weekend, sweep, sweep, sweep. All till this afternoon they were chanting it,” said A’s captain Juan “Juany” Richard, who contributed 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks to his team’s tally, that saw Jevon “Bugs” Demming dropping in 21, Shakeem Blackmore 16 and Azim Beazer pouring in a 10 point 11 rebounds double double to go with five blocks, three assists and two steals. “It put a chip on my shoulder and I came in with a different mentality, knowing that Randy (“Chino” George) does be giving us a big talk then Shumba (Shamaar George) and Glove (Gary Hillhouse), so I know definitely I had to come up big for my team because I’m the big man for them, so I had to take that onus on myself.”
In the huddle before the game started, Richard went as far as telling his team that he felt a victory and said he was of the mindset that they should be leading the series 2-1. He said they gave up Friday night’s victory and Saturday was a tough loss on Virgin Gorda.
“Personally as the team captain, I truly feel we’re supposed to be up 2-1 in this series, but, I know we have a fighting chance every game—that’s my mentality as the team captain,” he told Island Sun Sports. “I have to feed that to my younger players. We’ve been overlooked from the playoffs’ start. Nobody expected us to be here and I love that underdog feeling. It motivates me. It drives me and I try to feed that to my players as well.”
As it was win or go home, Coach Hemant Doodnaught said hustling was the difference over the first two games. “We came out with an intensity in this game that we didn’t have in the first two games,” he noted. “We just kept saying it’s win or go home so we left it all out there.”
Bayside Blazers Coach Rhennie “Gumba” Phipps said his team was flat and they tried turning it on late in the game. “We just didn’t have enough to finish it,” he noted. “Being in the loss column leaves a bad taste in your mouth but we’re going to come out and punch them in the mouth again, so we’re just waiting for the next game.”
With several day’s rest after back to back games, Phillip feels it helps his older team. “Back to back games kinda took our legs from under us, but this weekend, I think we’ll do fine,” Phipps said.
George, who led Bayside Blazers scores with a 21 points 13 rebounds double in addition to four steals and three blocks, said he sees the A’s as a team that doesn’t quit.
“I knew coming out the gates they would have given it their all, it’s just for us to dig in and keep the momentum going that we had last night (on Virgin Gorda) , obviously, it didn’t happen for us tonight because we played most of the game from behind,” he pointed out. “We tried to turn it on at the end of the game but they already had their momentum going and it was just tough to get it back with such a big league (60-44) going into the final quarter.”
Hillhouse was the only other scorer of note with 10 points and eight rebounds. George narrowly missed a double after pulling 14 off the rack to go with his nine points.
Jr. Blazers leads 2-1
Jr. Bayside Blazers took a 2-1 lead after losing the opener 59-56 on Friday, then evening the series with a thrilling 70-67 win on home turf, ahead of Sunday’s 75-55 victory. T’Koi Richardson had a game high 22 points, eight rebounds and eight steals. Demron Glasgow added 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Nkel Stevens’ double double included 14 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. Ryan Ramlall finished with 13 points and five rebounds while Lekoy Leonard dominated the boards with 14 to go with six points and three assists.
“My boys quit. They quit on me and they quit on themselves. They wouldn’t do what they were supposed to do in terms of the other team being in foul trouble,” Ronnie “Gola” Norman said of Jr. Skillful Ballers. “When they’re supposed to go and give the other team body and try to finish, they kept going around and trying to score. You have three men in foul trouble who (are) scoring for the next team and you(re) running away from them? That doesn’t make no sense. The more I talked about it, the more they did something different, so they hurt us in that way. When (the) Blazers started to score, they quit. Everybody quit.”
Jr. Blazers Coach Trevor “West” Stevens said it was a tough game but his players were scared.
“This is a good win because it builds their confidence, because they’re kinda scared of the team. I don’t know why they’re scared. It’s one ball,” he noted. “Once they build confidence, they gone all the way.”
Stevens said Jr. Skillful Ballers players weren’t shooting, just throwing the ball to the rim and his team put a packing zone on them. “My men have to come ready,” he said of Friday’s game. “Once they come ready, we’ll win.”