Laventille one game away from $1 million prize
Steven Lewis' game-high of 30 points helped ensure Laventille took the home game by a 17-point margin, beating visiting Marabella 88-71 in the first of the best-of-three finals of the Hoop of Life Community Basketball League at St Barbs basketball court on Sunday night.
The win brought Laventille one game closer to winning the $1 million first prize in the most lucrative basketball tournament in the Caribbean.
A 500-strong crowd, a quarter of which travelled from Marabella to support their team, heralded each basket scored with jubilant chants.
Coach Russell Procope was confident going into the game of a victory for his Bayshore court-based team, stating that he had prepared his players for all eventualities. And with Corey Pascall, one of the most consistent players in the tournament hitting baskets at will, Procope promised a win for his Marabella community.
His opposing counterpart, Karim Bilal, however, had different thoughts and brought on all of his attacking players from the first buzzer.
Laventille took the lead from the beginning of the game and were outscored only in the third quarter, when they posted 19 points to Marabella's 23.
At the end of the first quarter, the boys from the hill had a 17-12 advantage. In the second quarter they added 25 points to Marabella's 18, thus finishing the first half 42-30.
Some dazzling play by Pascall and Damian Caton saw the southerners make a bid for the lead, with Caton netting most of his night's 15 points in the third quarter.
But then with some strategic changes by Bilal, Laventille turned up the heat on the southerners and posted 27 points on the board to Marabella's 18, cruising to an 88-71 victory.
Laventille were led by national forward Lewis, who led all scorers with 30 points, while team captain Kenneth Roberts added 19.
For Marabella, forward Pascall was at his best with 26 points, while centre Caton added 15 before he was fouled out with 3:30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Louie Davis added 12 for the visitors.
Tonight, Marabella will host the second encounter at their Bayshore court, in an effort to erase the 17-point deficit and make way for a third and final decider to see who takes home the $1 million.