– Final Four spots on the line
By Edison Jefford
The National Basketball Championships: The Road to Mecca II continues tonight with the Super Eight
bouncing off at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall with four scintillating clashes carded for the Final Four spots up for grabs in the national competition.
The quarterfinals begin with a Colts United versus Pepsi Sonics showdown set for 4:30pm before an all-Linden clash at 6:30pm between last year’s finalist, Retrieve Raiders and Linden’s number one ranked, Kashif and Shanghai Kings.
The third game features Linden’s Victory Valley Royals against the defending champions, Dyna Ravens at 8:30pm. The last game of the night, which begins what is being called ‘Championship Basketball Weekend’, brings together Trinity Grid Holdings (TGH) Pacesetters and the Plaisance Guardians for an anticipated colossal showdown.
The Colts versus Sonics clash is a toss-up between two unpredictable teams capable of producing spectacular basketball on the same pendulum as they are of creating meltdowns. This quarterfinal game is suitable for a final given the balance of the teams.
Sonics has Jason Squires as its point guard and Trevor Smith as its shooting guard. Squires and Smith combined for 45 of Sonics’ 77 points in their win against Bulls from Linden with Squires dropping 23 points and Smith 22 points.
To support them, Sonics has a strong presence in the paint with the acquisition of Kurt ‘Gypsy’ Elias, who
had a double-double in their opening game. Earl O’Neil will support Elias along with Collis ‘Forty’ Pluck, marking a formidable ‘big man’ presence.
The five players are Sonics’ keys to success against Colts. Sonics Coach, former national player, Mark Agard has used his bench with expertise in the past and it will be no difference against the rampaging Colts this afternoon at 4:30pm.
For Colts, veteran forward, Dane Kendall will most likely return for them in an attempt to bring some presence in the paint. Colts’ forward, Haslyn Hooper had a good first game but tonight will be his ultimate test against Sonics relatively good forwards.
Colts guards, Dave Causway and Shelroy Thomas had monster games earlier in the competition with Rayon Commings chipping in. The maturity and seniority of Sonics’ approach could be the deciding factor in this game.
In the second game, Raiders will not survive the meltdown like the one that nearly cost them the first round game against Kings. Forward, Neil Marks, who was in good shooting form, last week, needs to get other support if they set themselves on course to reach yet another national final.
Kings has heavy arsenal in forwards Omally Sampson and Marvin Hartman and shooting guard, Orin Rose. This game guarantees that a Linden-based team reaches the semi-finals, which are set for tomorrow night at the same venue.
Comparatively, Ravens has the experience of Ryan Stephney, Rodwell ‘Kobe’ Fortune, Stephon ‘Penny’ Henry,
Akeem ‘The Dream’ Kanhai, Marlon Rodrigues and Dominic Vincente, who are all guards. That is as formidable a backcourt that can exist in Guyana.
Royals are clearly outclassed in that position. Where Royals can make a real difference is in the paint with a group of tough forwards on its roster. Royals’ forwards, Harold Adams, Ron Beckles and Lawrence DaCosta had a big night against Nets, who they beat to qualify for the Super Eight.
In the final game, the neutralisation of Pacesetters’ point guard, Travis Burnett is very important if Guardians want to give themselves any hope. Burnett is a prolific scorer and defensive guard. He is very difficult to defend once he gets to the paint.
Guardians have made a refreshing addition to its team with Nikkoloi Smith coming back from a loan to Colts. Most likely Burnett will be Smith’s assignment, which makes for a beautiful battle. Smith is very fit and so is Burnett; the battle among the two top guards for both sides should be very entertaining.
In the guard position, Pacesetters has shooting guards, Stephon Gillis and Shawn Gillis to oppose Smith and Ron Campbell. Guardians have also added forward, Mark Richards to its team to add some depth in the paint and support for Trenton Woolford. Pacesetters will throw their forwards, Randy Richardson, Jermaine Hamilton and Royston Siland at Richards and Woolford.
The Super Eight Playoffs will commence The National Basketball Championship Weekend with the Final Four set for tomorrow night and Finals set for Sunday, March 1 in a pulsating weekend of basketball.
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