Kent Crusaders claimed the Division 2 Playoff title after a 90-87 win over Thames Valley Cavaliers on Sunday morning at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester.
Martelle McLemore’s potential game tying three pointer bounced off the rim in the dying seconds as Crusaders added the playoff title to their league title.
John Shodipo picked up MVP for his 18 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists on 7 of 9 shooting, whilst RJ Eytle-Rock had 21 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals including two big free throws down the stretch in an MVP-worthy performance.
“It’s a great feeling,” Eytle-Rock said. “We worked hard for this all year around and it’s nice to come out with a win. We just knew we had to step it up at halftime, Coach got on to us a little bit, we weren’t playing as well as we could have on the defensive end, and we just picked up the intensity and stepped it up in the second half.”
Kent Head Coach Lloyd Gardner was elated with the win.
“It was a hard game,” he said. “End of the third, I thought we’d done enough, opened up a lead and broken them, but they’ve got such good individuals they came back. Key guys had had a little rest for them and they came back on the floor made some key shots and hurt us. We made a couple of home run plays at the end, where if we make them the game is done, we miss them, we give Thames Valley an opportunity to comeback.
“Delighted to get a win, obviously it’s closer than I would have liked as a coach, but I’m delighted to cap off a great season with a victory.”
It was Thames Valley who got the better of the early exchanges, leading for the majority of the first half behind the play of Robert Banks Jr, who had 17 of his 27 across the first two periods, and Phil Perre.
However, in the third period, Kent put the clamps on, holding Thames Valley to 13 points, and using the play of Amin Adamu, who had 8 points in the quarter, and Tim Shodipo, who had 8 points in the final 5 minutes, including a three to beat the buzzer and put Kent up 7.
Leading by nine with 3:30 to play, Kent looked in control until Cavaliers mounted their last gasp comeback. A 6-0 run spearheaded by Perre saw the game close to three points with a little under 2 minutes to play.
The teams traded baskets, as a previously-quiet McLemore did his best to keep Thames Valley in it, scoring 7 points in the final 53 seconds to make a game of it, and Crusaders let out a sigh of relief as his three point attempt with 2 seconds remaining bounced off the rim.
McLemore was held to 9 of 30 shooting on his way to 27 points, whilst Phil Perre added 25 for Cavaliers.