By RENALDO DORSETT
The Sunland Stingers needed to foul late as the clock winded down, but that mad scramble on defence allowed Corey Sands to find Delmar Hamilton alone under the basket for a wide open layup to lift the Cobras to a second consecutive Hugh Campbell title.
The CC Sweeting Cobras scored a 55-54 win over the Sunland Baptist Stingers in the tournament finale last night at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
The Cobras made history with their fifth tournament championship in school history and the second time the storied programme has won back-to-back titles.
Sands not only dished the game winning assist but also scored17 points to earn the game’s most valuable player award. He shot 9-12 from the free throw line and made every key play down the stretch for the Cobras to claim the title.
Also for the Cobras, Adran Thompson finished with a double double – 17 points and 11 rebounds, Anderias Blacks scored six and grabbed seven boards while Michael Bethel chipped in with seven.
Tyler Davis led the Stingers with 14 points and a game high 18 rebounds, Tavares Marche added 11 points and Brandon Meadows finished with eight points and seven boards.
“I must say I give thanks to God for the victory. I have to give hats off to Sunland, they played well, they stuck to their system, but the ball just bounced our way tonight. We were the better team by just enough,” Cobras head coach Mario Bowleg said.
“The excitement from here is what we look forward to when we go to the Nationals in Grand Bahama. We allowed them to get back into the game but we just needed to settle down a few timeouts to remind the guys of what we needed to do and we were able to get back on track.”
A hectic fourth quarter featured five ties and six lead changes before Sands’ connection with Hamilton sealed the win.
The Stingers trimmed the lead to just one in the opening minutes of the fourth on a Javares McIntosh putback (40-39) but Sands would respond with a pair at the line to keep the Cobras ahead. Thompson added a layup on the following possession to give his team some breathing room in a two- possession game.
A fortunate missed backcourt call translated to points for the Stingers on a Cornish putback, and they again came within one 44-43 with just under four minutes left to play. Meadows tied the game at 45 with a layup at the 3:30 mark and it was tied again at 47 after both teams traded baskets.
Sands put the Cobras ahead once again with free throws at 2:03 before Meadows tied it with a layup. Sands split a pair at the line, as did Kaleel Solomon to tie the game agan at 50. Marche’s free throws gave Sunland their first lead since the first quarter, 52-50.
Thompson would grab a rebound and finish a putback on the following possession to tie the game for the Cobras at 52 with 53 seconds left to play. Sands was fouled with 32.9 left on the clock and made one to put his team ahead.
McIntosh was called for a charge on his way to the basket, a crucial turover with 25 seconds left. On the next play Sands found Hamilton for a layup as the Stingers looked to foul.
Senior wing Adrian Thompson said it was fitting for his team to go out as a champion in his final year.
“It feels great because this is my last year and for me to go out with back to back titles, it’s tough to describe how special that feels. We had to fight, like coach said, talent doesn’t always win. We had the talent and determination to get it done,” he said, “They came back but coach said if we really want it we will go out and fight like we’re the underdogs. In that last minute is where the heart came in and we showed them what Cobras basetball is all about.”
In the first quarter, Marche came out connecting on first two jumpers of the game and led Sunland to an early 6-5 lead. In a turnover prone first quarter like you would expect in a game of this magnitude, there were three travels and two offensive fouls within the first three minutes of play.
Despite playing the semi-final in the morning, Sunland looked quicker to the ball. Sunland took a 10-9 on a pair of free throws from Solomon with 1:17 left to play in the quarter. They ended the quarter trading baskets with a Sands layup, Meadows three and Thompson layup.
In the late moments of the period, Cobras backup point guard Lorenzo Riley came up with a steal and dished to Sands who finished the fastbreak layup just as time expired for a 15-12 lead.
In the second, the Stingers opened with the first five points before Blacks made a corner three to retake an 18-17 lead.
The Cobras began to trap, leading to fastbreaks and the beginning of a brief run. Thompson made four free throws and finished an alley up for a 24-17 Cobras lead.
Bethel added another free throw for a 7-0 run. Marche would split a pair at the line for the Stingers to bring the run to an end.
Davis made a pair at the line to trim the deficit, 27-22. Sands would add a late layup to take a 29-22 lead at the half.
Both teams came out sluggish after an extensive halftime show.
The Cobras eventually went up nine (33-24) when Blacks converted a three- point play near the four- minute mark. Missed opportunities for the Cobras to go up 10, and allow the Stingers to get back into the game.
A Davis reverse layup made the score 36-31 and a Marche assist to Meadows trimmed it to just three. Thompson had the answer when the Cobras needed it most with a tip in follow that shifted momentum periodically. CC Sweeting took a 38-35 lead into the fourth.
The programme has now won four titles under Bowleg (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016) and one with Ian Pinder (2007) at the helm.
Last year, the Cobras won the title with a 67-61 victory over the CI Gibson Rattlers as Michael Bethel was named the most valuable player.
An experienced squad returned Bethel and fellow starters from last season, Adrian Thompson Jr and Corey Sands.
Since head coach Jay Phillipe became head coach, the Stingers have won consecutive Grand Bahama Secondary School Athletic Association titles and were expected to be strong contenders for the Hugh Campbell title last year before the Grand Bahama teams withdrew.
After a hard-fought four- point win in their debut, the Stingers were dominant with wins of 16, 17 and 24 points. Their only stumbling block of the tournament was the Cobras.
The Stingers are still looking to win their first Hugh Campbell title after their third finish as runners up.