by RENALDO DORSETT
Game one was decided by seven, game two by three and the clinching game of the BAISS Junior Boys championship series followed suit as the St. Augustine’s College Big Red Machine claimed the 2015 title.
Led by their dynamic trio of guards, The Big Red Machine closed out the series in the third and deciding game, 48-45 over the Aquinas College Aces last night at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
Cornelius Clyde delivered an MVP performance with a team high 15 points, Makarious Russell added 14 and Joel Johnson finished with eight.
Clyde, the team captain, was huge down the stretch, sinking a pair of free throws to give his team a three point lead with 1:02 left to play, and coming up with a steal on the ensuing possession to keep the Aces at bay.
“Free throws are always the difference, in game two we lost by four but missed nine free throws, tonight we shot more free throws and made them,” he said, “It feels great to be champions again, its my second time as a junior at SAC. We know we had this, they tried to get in our heads but we kept our head in the game and listened to coach. We knew what they were coming out with, to focus on our guards. They said only our guards can score but our forwards came out strong tonight as well.”
Tahj Moss led the Aces with 14 points, John Nixon finished with 10 and Michael Cartwright came off the bench to add eight.
Clyde, along with forwards Kamaal Martinborough and Leon Miller made the free throws down the stretch to seal the title for the Big Red Machine.
A desperation three at the buzzer from Charles Bain rimmed out as time expired to send the SAC crowd, including confident head coach John Todd, into a frenzy.
“I was confident we were going to win, I was sure of it,” he said, “We have the best guards of any juniors in the country, that’s why they played a box and one defense to try to stop us, but we are still champions.”
Backed by an eager crowd advantage the Aces jumped out 4-0 to open the game off a pair of fast breaks, but SAC answered to tie the game at four.
Cartwright came off the bench and had an immediate impact with his size inside and five points in the quarter.
His late layup gave the Aces a 12-7 lead at the end of the first.
SAC opened the second on a 4-0 run to pull within one on a Hyde layup, 12-11. Both teams traded baskets until SAC finally took a 17-16 lead on Russell layup.
It was the third quarter where SAC would take control opening the period on a run that saw them go ahead 31-20 with 3:28 left to play.
Bran would finally bring an end to the run and broke the Aces drought at line. SAC maintained a lead by as much as eight, but the Aces would hang around with their aggressive attacking style of played, made frequent trips to the line.
A Moss free throw would make it 35-31 as they headed into the fourth.
Nixon scored the opening basket on putback for Aces in the period but again they failed to convert at the line with several timely opportunities.
The Big Red Machine would answer with consecutive scores from Johnson and Russell.
SAC led 42-36, but in a game of runs, the Aces would predictably stage a comeback.
Three SAC turnovers led to six fastbreak points for the Aces and Moss layup made it 42-41 with just under two minutes left to play.
Ball control and free throw shooting would decide the game down the stretch.
“We decided we were not going to shoot anymore and make them foul us. Go old school,” Todd said.
The Junior Boys triumph gave the Big Red Machine two of the four BAISS basketball titles, along with the Senior Girls who swept the Prince William Falcons in two games.