Jelani Blackett and Jillisa Briggs, two of the NBA Experience winners who recently visited New York, USA, to participate in the final phase of the Digicel NBA Jumpstart Programme, helped Maloney Pacers boys' and girls' teams emerge the respective champions of the National Basketball Federation of T&T (NBFTT) Under-18 3X3 National Championship at the Maloney Indoor Sports Arena on Saturday.
Blackett along with teammates Jael Lewis, Kaleb De Souza, Jadon Daniel and Micah Brown, under the guidance of coach Christorpher Jackson Charles, defeated Brian Chase Basketball Academy, 9-7 in the boys final.
"I am very proud of both teams," said Charles. "They train hard and play well together. They have a good bond and I am proud of them. Brian Chase Academy was the toughest team in the competition and a more mature team. We won the first NBFTT 3x3 competition so it was good to win again. The guys did real good."
The eight teams also including Tobago Yung Stars, Hoop Nation Basketball Academy Yellow, Hoop Nation Basketball Academy (Blue), Bago Heat, Spartans TT and Stories of Success (SOS) Basketball Academy in the boys' category were split into two groups of four and after round-robin play in either pool, the top two teams in each pool advanced to the semifinals.
At that stage, Pacers met Tobago Yung Stars and claimed a 12-19 while in the other semifinals Brian Chase faced Hoop Nation Yellow and prevailed 9-6. The losing semifinalists competed in the third-place playoff and it was Tobago Yung Stars sealing an 11-6 victory. Daniel Constance of Tobago Yung Stars led the boys' division in scoring with 26 points.
The Pacers girls of Briggs, Kayleea Songui Makayla Mathison and Aniska Bernard competed in a round-robin competition against four other teams including SOS, Girls Can Hoop, Rising Stars Basketball Academy, Brian Chase Basketball Academy
"The girls shocked me," said an amazed but pleased Charles. "They now start to play basketball but they are performing as good as the current senior players. They have supportive parents and I think this is why they are developing so quickly and doing so well. They can only get better from here on out."
Briggs and Breanna Charles of Girls Can Hoop topped the scoring table each with 14 points in the girls' division. Their respective teams met in a virtual final and Pacers won 7-6.
"The Maloney Pacers basketball Club and youth development programme's goal is to continue to develop talent with hope of representing T&T or themselves by getting contracts to play basketball overseas," Presently, Jadon and Kaleb are preparing to the SAT's. The boys are trying to be scholarship potentials, aiming at getting the opportunity to go to school abroad," said the winning coach.
The tournament, which ran from the October 19 – November 30, was executed in preparation for the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Antilles 3X3 Championship Finals to be held in Guadeloupe in February.
"When and if they represent T&T at the regional 3x3 that they perform for T&T just as they did for their team," said Charles.