For the second time in five years, the C.C. Sweeting Cobras are Hugh Campbell Champions!
A key coaching move paid dividends for the Cobras last night, as they pulled away from the Eight Mile Rock Blue Jays in the championship game of the 30th Hugh Campbell Basketball Classic at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium. Cobras Head Coach Mario Bowleg balanced the minutes of star point guard Angelo Lockhart due to foul trouble, bringing him back at exactly the right time to lead the Cobras to a 58-46 win over the Blue Jays.
Lockhart, who carted home the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, had four key points down the stretch in the fourth quarter to go along with two timely assists and a steal, to lead the Cobras to victory. After picking up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, Bowleg took Lockhart out of the game and didn't re-insert him until the 5:04 mark of the fourth quarter. Lockhart proved to be the piece of the puzzle the Cobras needed, as he dictated the pace of the game on the offensive end and was a sparkplug on the defensive end. The Cobras limited the Blue Jays to just three points in the final five minutes.
"It was frustrating because we had to go most of the second half without him but as soon as he got back in the game, things started to go in our favor," said Bowleg about his 12th grade point guard. "When Angelo came back, the whole game turned around. The guys really wanted it this year. At the half, we had a slim lead but they said that they weren't going to let this one slip away, and they didn't."
Lockhart was the floor general on the court for the Cobras, but it was another senior who carried them on his shoulders all game. Starting center Roosevelt "Chicken" Whylley was consistent throughout. He led the team with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Rashad Davis helped out with 14 points and four boards, Alvano Miller had nine points and eight rebounds, and Lockhart contributed eight points and seven assists. Whylley and Lockhart were part of that team which fell in the Hugh Campbell final to the Tabernacle Baptist Falcons by one point in overtime two years ago; but this time, they weren't going to be denied.
The Cobras led by double digits after the first quarter. The Blue Jays trimmed that lead to seven at the break, got to within five at the end of three and were as close as three points in the fourth quarter. However, the Cobras maintained their composure and pulled through with clutch plays both offensively and defensively down the stretch.
"We just took our time and never panicked," said Whylley. "It feels real good, especially after what happened two years ago. We really wanted this one and we got it. I think for the whole game we were a lil flat. In the fourth quarter, we just dug down deep and pulled through."
The Blue Jays were led by Romaine Gibson and Ervin Lewis with 14 points each last night. Womarko Russell was their next highest scorer with eight.
"They had more energy than us - plain and simple," said Blue Jays Head Coach Quinton "Three Ounce" Hall last night. "Fatigue settled in, in the fourth quarter and we couldn't recover. They did an excellent job and they won. I'm proud of my boys though. They left it all out there on the court tonight but there's only so much that you can do. All in all, it was a good performance by team and I'm satisfied."
Even after Lockhart re-entered the game in the fourth quarter last night, the Blue Jays were still hanging around. But after losing Lewis to fouls with 4:37 remaining, they seemed to have all the life sucked out of them.
"Ervin was their key offensive player so when he fouled out, we felt pretty confident," said Bowleg. "I knew that they would have been launching three's and looking for offense elsewhere after that. At that point, we were at full strength and we were able to finish strong. I feel good because my name can now be mentioned with the Johnson's, the Norris Bain's and the Charlie Robins, and the rest of those guys who won before. We only lose three players off this team so we're looking good for next year as well. We think that we'll be alright."
It was the first Hugh Campbell title for Bowleg as a Head Coach, and the second one in total for C.C. Sweeting. Bowleg was an assistant coach with these same Cobras five years ago when they won their first Hugh Campbell title under the guidance of Ian 'Wire' Pinder.
In the semi-finals games early Monday, the Cobras blasted the C.I. Gibson Rattlers, 90-62, and the Blue Jays squeezed past the R.M. Bailey Pacers, 74-71.
In the game between the Cobras and the Rattlers, the Cobras got a monster performance from Whylley to hand the Rattlers their first loss of the year. Whylley had 27 points, 18 rebounds, six assists and two blocks for the Cobras in that impressive win. Donte Strachan added 16 points, Lockhart had 15 points and Miller contributed 11 points. Adney Bethel paced the Rattlers with 14 points, team captain William Rigby contributed nine, and Kristen Francis and Oatman Lightbourne contributed eight points apiece.
The Cobras played second fiddle to the Rattlers all season long, losing four games by a combined seven points, but came through when it mattered the most, and can now call themselves Hugh Campbell Champions!
Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian