Caledonia Clippers defeated Stories of Success Basketball Academy (SOS) 108-95 at Maloney on Sunday evening to complete a two-nil sweep of the best-of-three finals and claim the National Basketball Federation’s National Invitational Championship (NIC) men’s title in convincing fashion.
Clippers, the 2019 North Zone champions and the only team to have defeated SOS during the preliminary rounds, left nothing to chance as they opened up a first quarter lead and never allowed their opponents to get back on even terms. Clippers’ high-scoring guard Adrian Joseph would later be named Most Valuable Player of the tournament but ironically, it was Kirk Baptiste, voted the Best Defensive Player, who took up the challenge to do lead their attack with a game-high 25 points.
For SOS and player/coach Kern George it was a disappointing end to a tournament they had stamped their class on from the start in mid December last year, winning game after game in style. However, missing the services of guard Ahkeem Boyd and centre Moriba De Freitas, the cracks started to show.
SOS lost a game in their semi-final series against Police, winning 2-1, then lost game one of the finals by just one point on Thursday last (77-76). Desperately needing a good start in game two to get their home fans at the Maloney Indoor Sports Arena solidly behind them, they applied defensive pressure at both ends of the court.
However, even as Clippers’ go-to player Joseph was being pressured by SOS, his teammates used their experience to forge ahead (29-24) by the end of the opening quarter and stayed in front (55-52) at the half.
SOS were clearly put off as the likes of Baptiste and Miguel Williams imposed their physical presence at every opportunity and, unable to match that physicality, it was all they could to stay within range of the lead.
That all changed in the third quarter when Clippers restricted SOS to 18 points while scoring 31 of their own; going into the final quarter, Clippers led 86-70 and the result was beyond doubt long before the final buzzer sounded.
Apart from Baptiste’s 25 points, Ako Pascal and Kurt Christian each put up 22 and Joseph scored 16. Ahkeel Boyd inevitably led SOS with 24 while George (14), Keron Stephens (12) and Jelani Valley (11) all got into double-figures but ultimately fell short.
Clippers thus finished the extended 2019 season as the country’s most successful club, leaving Kern George and his talented squad, the East Zone champions, to look back at what was an excellent campaign on their part and work even harder towards the next season.