'Knibb, JC face off today in ISSA/KFC U-19 basketball final
MONTEGO BAY, St James — William Knibb Memorial High will carry the hopes of western Jamaica this afternoon, when they take on Jamaica College in an east versus west contest in the all-island final of the ISSA/KFC Under- 19 boys' basketball competition at the National Stadium, set to start at 5:00pm.
Meanwhile, Muschett High can still claim their highest finish when they face Belair in the third place play-off as Belair lost to Jamaica College by two points in their semi-finals, played on Tuesday.
In what William Knibb's coach Ronald Beckford described as a "bitter sweet" victory, the Martha Brae, Trelawny- based school beat Muschett High 67-63 in Tuesday's semi-finals at the Montego Bay Cricket Club in an all Trelawny showdown.
William Knibb Memorial will be the second western-based school to qualify for the all-island final in what will be the third appearance in the decider by a western-based school, after Herbert Morrison Technical lost in back to back years.
St George's College beat Herbert Morrison in 2009; Ardenne High beat that Montego Bay school in 2010, while Cornwall College and Mannings School have placed third in previous years.
The only school from western Jamaica to have won a national high school basketball title was Muschett High, two years ago.
On Tuesday, an 8-0 run by William Knibb late in the fourth quarter of what was then a close game, proved to be the difference maker, as they won their third straight game against Muschett this season.
After losing their opening game to Muschett, William Knibb swept them 2-0 in their best of three Western Conference finals to dethrone the champions of the previous two seasons.
After Tuesday's four points victory, Beckford said they were confident going into the game and wanted to prove their one point victory in Game Two of the Western finals was not a fluke.
"We were very confident coming into today's game" he told the Jamaica Observer West.
"When they beat us in the first game, I told my players not to worry as Muschett can't beat us against for the rest of the season; we saw what they had and our team had just started to gel and so we wanted to see what rotations worked for us in that game, and as soon as we saw what worked for us, I told them that Muschett could not beat us again," an elated Beckford explained.
Today's game, he said, would be even more important as his team will try to show how far basketball has come in western Jamaica.
"The finals (will be) very important and we want to show that the dynamics of basketball has really changed and what we really want to showcase is that our team is one of the best teams to have played high school basketball in Jamaica," he argued.
"We really want to do it for western Jamaica because for many years we have played good basketball here in the region, but have nothing to show for it."
On paper, he thinks his team has a chance of beating Jamaica College who were beaten 81-65 by Muschett High, "and we think we have a good chance to win once we can go into that game and play hard and prove ourselves."
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, William Knibb led most of the way in an evenly contested game; trailing by one point 14-15 after the first quarter, they led 26-23 at half time, and 42-41 going into the fourth quarter.
Muschett trailed by as many as six points before rallying to take the lead 49-48 with six minutes 40 seconds to go in the game, and after trading baskets, an unnecessary unsportsman- like foul by William Knibb's Daniel Henry on Damaine Thorpe with five minutes and 23 seconds to go, could have cost them the game.
Thorpe who played for the Muschett under-16 team this season, made one of the free throws, but they failed to capitalise on the possession, allowing Knibb back into the game.
Muschett led by one 54-53 with three minutes and 45 seconds to go, when Knibb started their rally. Don Michael Fray made a layup and converted the free throw as he was fouled to give Knibb the lead and Shavaughn Reid grabbed a rebound from a missed three pointer and scored as Knibb led 58-56, before consecutive baskets ran their lead to six points. Knibb hung on to win despite Henry making one of four free throws in the last minute of the game.
Reid led all scorers with 24 points and had seven rebounds, Henry scored 22 points and had nine rebounds and eight assists, while Alwayne Smith had eight points and nine rebounds.
Karlington Barrett scored 16 points and had nine rebounds for Muschett, Michael Schloss scored 15 points and had eight steals and assists, while Thorpe has 11 points coming off the bench.