Forward Kyeon Joseph led Defence Force to game two win against the Stories of Success (SOS) Basketball Academy to level the best-of-three series final in the JCW Invitational Basketball League on Friday night at the Southern Regional Indoor Sports Arena in Pleasantville, San Fernando.
The Army/Coast Guard combination team, coached by Gerald Nate Toney, pulled off a narrow 73-72 victory to extend the series to a decider which is scheduled to unfold today at the same venue from 4 pm. Last weekend, the Kern George-coached SOS unit sealed a 90-74 win in the series opener.
“Last night (Friday), we had to make some adjustments because in the first game we didn’t come prepared to play so we get blow out the water in the first half of the first game. By the time we tried to chip away it was too late, the hole was too deep. So last night we had to make some adjustments,” Toney told the T&T Guardian.
“During the week in practice, we got at least two sessions so we got to make some adjustments and they worked.”
Joseph produced a team-high 18 points to pilot Defence Force, as coach Toney opted for a more attacking strategy than in previous matches, so much so that his long-range shooter Kerry McMillan earned most of his points from the line, connecting 10 free-throws of his 12 points as he attacked the basket more often and was fouled in the process.
On the flip side, coach Toney extended his defence to limit shots from the outside, a strength of East Zone champion SOS, who had Ahkeem “Fatto” Boyd (13) opening their scoring with two three-pointers while his teammate Moriba DeFreitas dominated down in the post.
However, mainly through the efforts of Joseph and McMillan, Defence Force managed to lead 19-17 at the end of the first quarter. SOS didn’t stay behind for long though and with Boyd’s twin brother Ahkeel “Smally” joining in on the attack, his team recovered and went ahead at the half 44-36, despite the effort of Defence Force centre Wilt Vincent (12), who added some key baskets in the post.
SOS maintained their advantage into the third quarter with the added contribution of Mohammed Elias, who poured in 13, but guard Kensley Sandy (16) did enough to keep Defence Force within range as they trailed 60-55 heading into the fourth period.
“We still had some lapses defensively that kept the team in the game and that could have cost us the game but the energy that the guys came out with and the motivation to win, because the first loss was an embarrassment to us, so we said that will not happen to us again.”
Knowing fully well they had to step up on both ends of the court in the final session, Joseph, McMillan and Sandy came through on offence while the defensive plan bore fruit, restricting SOS’s shots from the three-point arc.
The Army/Coast Guard team went on to outscore SOS 18-12 and edged the East youngsters by a point to force a decider.
“Going into tomorrow’s (today) game we have the same plan cause I don’t think that the opposition could make much adjustments. We have to stay disciplined to what we know and to our game plan,” Toney said.
Earlier, North Zone champions Caledonia Clippers held off zonal rivals Straker Nets 73-70 to place third in the southern league. Post-players Miguel Williams and Shawn Lawrence led the way each with 15, while teammates Ako Pascal and Akil Paynter added 14 and 11 respectively for the winners.
FINAL (Game 2)
SOS 72 (Moriba DeFreitas 18, Ahkeel Boyd 15, Ahkeem Boyd 13, Mohammed Elias 13) v DEFENCE FORCE 73 (Kyeon Joseph 18, Kensley Sandy 16, Kerry McMillan 12, Wilt Vincent 12).
Quarter scores: 1st. 19-17 (D Force), 2nd. 44-36 (SOS) 3rd. 60-55 (SOS)
THIRD PLACE PLAYOFF
STRAKER NETS 70 (Sadiki Guerra 15, Jeffrey Harris 12, Allister Martin 10) v CALEDONIA CLIPPERS 73 (Shawn Lawrence 15, Miguel Williams 15, Ako Pascal 14, Akil Paynter 11). Quarter scores: 1st. 22-17 (Straker); 2nd. 35-35; 3rd. 57-53 (Clippers).