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Laventille, Marabella for Hoop of Life finals
Marabella ensured a shot at the $1 million grand prize in the Hoop of Life Community Basketball League despite a one-point loss (89-88) in the second stanza to Caledonia on Monday. Playing at home, Marabella was required to stay within a four-point margin of defeat to advance after the team won 81-77 over Caledonia in the first leg. The result silenced many who predicted an all-north final between Laventille (already qualified) and Caledonia, which had been one of the more exciting and dominant teams in the league.
Caledonia showed early nerves as Marabella’s 500-strong supporters filled the basketball court, the street, the three sides of the playing area, even on top of apartment buildings.
And, the man who proved to be the thorn in Caledonia’s side was the team’s first-leg nemesis Ako Corey Pascall, who finished with a match-high 24 points to see Marabella to victory.
The match see-sawed as Caledonia kept pace with the home team although trailing at the end of the first quarter 16-14.
In fact, in the sixth minute of the second quarter, Caledonia had taken the lead by one point and by the end of the quarter, the scoreboard read 41-38 in favour of the visitors.
It meant still that Caledonia would have had to keep the pressure on and improve by at least two more points to advance. However, Pascall and Damian Caton, who together netted 40 points, denied the northerners its glory. A succession of two-pointers from scintillating fast-breaks saw Pascall even the score every time Caledonia went ahead.
In the fifth minute of the third quarter the scoreboard read 53-53, but by the end of the quarter Caledonia had again found itself in the lead 69-66 as it was most of the rebounds with its lankier defenders. During all this melee, with fans from both teams jesting at each other, there was a nice level of camaraderie between the players, as was evident when Marabella’s Pascall offered some of his drinking water to Darrel Baptiste of Caledonia. Nevertheless, the players were playing the match as a final knowing fully well that their communities were depending on them to bring the prize home.
And, in a final surge, Marabella got two free shots and made it count, bringing the score to 87-87. Marabella then went one point up, making it 88-87. But, two solid free throws from Caledonia saw the scoreboard change again 89-88 in its favour. The one-point lead at the end of the allotted 40 minutes was simply not good enough for Caledonia and they graciously bowed out of the final. Both Caledonia and La Romaine would now have to tough it out for the third place position and a $250,000 cash prize, while Laventille awaits Marabella in a best out of three finals for a first prize of $1 million. The runner-up will receive $500,000.
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