08 April 2013

SEYCHELLES : Curtain-raiser tournament finals

 Stars dethrone Mont Fleuri, PLS Hawks retain title

MBU Rockers’ Nigel Sinon picked up the runners-up trophy and stared at the winners’ cup in Rodney Lozé’s hands, probably thinking this piece of silverware could have been theirs had they not let the Hawks beat them at the death.
PLS Hawks ran out lucky 96-91 winners in Saturday’s final at Victoria Gymnasium to retain the men’s Curtain-raiser title, while Anse Etoile Stars dethroned Mont Fleuri with a 53-45 win in the women’s game.
The winners and runners-up received their cups from National Sports Council chief executive Alain Volcère, who was himself a basketballer in his younger days and also coach of the country’s women’s team.
Mr Volcère was happy with what he saw on Saturday, describing the men’s match as “very entertaining”.
“MBU Rockers have surely made a lot of progress, but still have to work on their defence. I believe this year’s league competition will be very interesting to watch and follow,” added the NSC boss.

Stars dethrone Mont Fleuri

ANSE ETOILE STARS ... women’s Curtain-raiser winners

After finishing as league and cup double winners last year when the only title they did not win was the Curtain-raiser trophy, Anse Etoile Stars came into Saturday’s final wanting to start the 2013 season on a good note and they dictated the pace of the game, winning the first three quarters 13-11, 13-12 and 12-7.
Boasting an 8-point lead – 38-30 – going into the fourth quarter, the Stars only had to play safe and they tied Mont Fleuri 15-15 to run out 53-45 winners, dethroning the Mont Fleurians whose coach Tony Juliette was not on their bench.
Player of the year Jana Malbrook finished with a game-leading 13 points, including one 3-pointer, but she got help in offence from Geneviève Beaudouin who banked two treys for six of her 10 points, and Lucia Souffe who also finished in double figures with 10 points.
Speaking to Sports Nation, veteran captain and centre Simone Malbrook, who got eight points, said “my team will be all out to make a clean sweep of all the titles this year to get the opportunity to represent Seychelles at the Indian Ocean Club Championship”.
After netting four treys in the Stars’ 63-25 win against HotShots in the semifinal, Russian recruit Victoria Sochugova twice connected from behind the arc in the final.
Skipper Bernadette Songor led the Mont Fleurians in scoring with 10 points, but could do very little to help her team, who edged Anse Boileau-based HotShots 66-65 in last year’s final, retain the title.

Hawks steal victory from the jaws of defeat

The Rockers surely showed they have the will to win and the energy to play hard with the return of playmaker Sinon from a six-month suspension, but at the same time it is obvious that they lack depth and crunch-time experience as they let the Hawks steal a 96-91 Hawks’ Solomon (dribbling) is defended by Rockers’ Keven Morelvictory from the jaws of defeat in the men’s final.

With player-coach Gonzague ‘Loupi’ Agrippine making the tactical switches, the Rockers looked like giving the Hawks a dose of their own medicine as their high tempo play gave the still rusty-looking Hawks, who usually win games with a tough defence, a tough time.

The Rockers led by 11 – 21-10 – on a Sinon layup with 2 minutes 58 seconds (2:58) left in the first quarter. When Bernard Bristol was called for goaltending on a Pascal Bibi layup with 2:48 on the clock in the second quarter, the Rockers were up by 15 – 45-30 –, but soon started running out of steam as the Hawks used a 12-0 run to close the score to 45-42 at half-time.

Nigerian Alao Solomon tied the score at 47-47 on a layup after a Mike Estico miss with 1:06 played in the third, but a Brian Morel 3-point play gave the Rockers back the lead at 50-47 and when he buried two treys inside 24 seconds his team regained their double-digit lead – 65-55 – with 4:16 to play. But the Hawks again trimmed the score and took the lead for the first time at 68-67 on two Bristol free-throws with 1:39 left and started the fourth quarter with a two-point advantage 71-69.
With big men Keven Morel and Daniel Hoareau fouling out with two minutes apart and with 6:33 left to play, many and including the Hawks bench thought the Rockers would just disintegrate but they stood firm and even led 83-77 on a Selwyn Tamboo layup (5:34 left) before the Hawks equalised again at 85-85 on Steve Allisop’s 3-point play.
After Solomon gave Hawks the lead at 93-91 with 44 seconds to play, Bibi made an eventful trip to the free-throw line missing two shots denying his team of a chance to tie the game once more, while Wilby Domingue and Bristol scored to give the Hawks a 96-91 victory.
Solomon led all scores with 37 points, while veteran power forward Jim Domingue, whose love for the game and winning mentally is still getting him more playing time than his younger teammates, added 17. Bristol contributed 12 and Rodney Lozé finished with 11 before fouling out.
Playmaker Bristol was happy with the win, but cautioned his teammates that “this season won’t be easy like the last when we made a clean sweep of all the titles”.
“The Rockers came out strong and proved to us that they have worked on their mistakes and we need to get down to some serious work if we want to win the other competitions,” added the 36-year-old.
Morel was the Rockers’ top scorer with 24 points, followed by Sinon with 20, Hoareau with 12 and Bibi with 11.
“We could have won the match but lost it! We have ourselves to blame for the loss and the mistakes we committed but even though many might not agree, the officials did not do us any favour,” lamented Sinon who caused the Hawks’ open defence also sorts of problems with his penetration game.

Saturday’s game gave an indication of what the 2013 season will look like as the Hawks, it seems, won’t have it easy as last year when they reached the century mark in almost every match, including the landslide 111-61 win against the same Rockers in the season-ending Seychelles basketball Federation Cup final.

G. G.

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