Mackeson Super 10 Basketball League leaders University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), bounced back from defeat to Maloney Pacers in their last match, to make the race for the four playoff places even more interesting.
Forward Kerry Celestine registered a league and season-best 37 points, when helping UTT to a 84-81 come-from-behind victory over Valencia Heat in the Menís Division on Friday night at Maloney Indoor Sports Complex. And a late surge and 21 points from Maurice Francis saw Maloney Pacers record a second consecutive victory, when they edged Mackeson Monarchs 77- 65. The SBL goes on its carnival break from today to March 6.
Fridayís match was critical for both UTT and Valencia Heat in the search for a Big 4 spot. Valencia Heat jumped out to 20-14 first quarter lead, and when the first half ended they were in total control 46-24, with an up tempo game which UTT failed to contain.
However, UTTís head coach Lenny Guy, a veteran of the sidelines for more than 30 years, provided the motivational spark that his team lacked in the first half. they also reverted to a man-to-man defence.
Guyís strategy seemed to work as UTT reduced a 22-point half-time deficit to 13 points at the end of the third quarter (68-55). UTT outscored Valencia 31-22 in the third session with Celestine connecting on four of his eight three-pointers to tally 12 points in the session. Celestine shooting was backed by his teammatesí tough defensive tactics which paid particular attention to Valencia prolific scorer Fabrice Fisher, who was restricted to two points in the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, UTT kept chipping away and Patrick Scipio levelled the score at 70-70. The teams traded baskets until Scipio again came into play with a lay-up that pushed UTT 81-82 ahead. Later, Jeffrey Harris put the icing on the cake with another lay-up with seconds left to secure victory.
The win kept UTT at the top of the standing as they completed their preliminary round with eight wins and four losses to lead the 13-team standings with 20 points. Scipio ended with a valuable 16 points and Lazaro Campbell supported with 10. For Valencia Heat, Fisher finished with 21 points, centre Dwayne Virgil scored 20 and the talented and promising young centre Jeffrey Saunders had 10 points.