Microgaming Cavaliers 45 – 41 Forget Me Not Jets
Last Thursday saw the Microgaming Cavaliers crowned as Isle of Man Basketball champions in a low scoring, but tense final. This marked the end of a four year odyssey to climb back to the top of the mountain for the first time since 2017 for the Cavs.
Following a crushing defeat in the 2018 final against an imperious Edgewater Turkeys squad, the Cavaliers fractured into two camps with the veteran players electing to stay and rebuild while the remaining members departed and formed the Jets. Over the last three seasons, the Jets have had the upper hand but neither team managed to capture the title themselves but facing off against each other in the final this year gave the match an extra edge as each side fought to be the first faction to succeed without the other.
Since the league adopted the playoff structure some ten years ago, the #1 seed has never failed to capture the title, could the Cavs make a little bit of history?
The final game of the regular season leading into these playoffs gave an insight of things to come, as Cavs managed to squeeze out their first ever league win against the top seeded Jets to cement their place as the second seed, and this final started in similar fashion, with sharpshooter Phill Evans finding the early form with a pair of deadeye three pointers. Jets responded in kind, with Paul Kilic finding the touch from outside and Wayne Mears slicing through the key but Cavs just about managed to keep their nose in front to lead by four points at the end of the first after a dagger three at the buzzer from Sergio Arboleya.
The second quarter was a low scoring affair, with Cavs smothering the high post entry passes to deny the Jets offence and forcing multiple late shot clock heaves but Cavs failed to capitalise on the other end with some wide open misses. However, Andy Cregeen managed to find his range to score a deep two and Arboleya struck again with another buzzer beating long range bomb at the end of the half to push the Cavs out to a six point lead. A margin that small means nothing in basketball though and Jets opened the third with renewed vigour and Mear was instrumental in driving the team forward, ably assisted by Mike Baker in the low block to tie the game up.
Cavs made some minor adjustments to their defensive scheme and managed to stem the tide but by the end of the third, the lead was down to one and we were all set for a thrilling finish. With both teams knowing that the whole season was coming down to these final ten minutes, the opening exchanges were nervy and open shots were blown but Arboleya managed to snake his way to the basket for a couple of baskets.
With the Cavs defence still snuffing out the high post entry and Jets seemingly having no Plan B, they resorted to focussing on their effort plays and managed to pick up baskets from rebound after some lazy boxing out by the Cavs and with the two minute mark approaching, Cavs were still clinging onto a one point lead but it was Arboleya, who else, that rose above the defence to sink the most important Cavs basket of the season with a swish three pointer.
While Jets weren’t completely out of it, time was not on their side and the teams traded foul shots down the stretch and with 20 seconds to go, Cavs held a six point lead. A late basket from Mears, was in vain as the clock ran out and a jubilant Cavalier team celebrated a championship that seemed so unlikely at the start of the season.
Cavaliers thanked their sponsors, Microgaming, who have supported the team for over 15 years. The team look forward to building on this new success, but the stay at the top of the mountain only lasts for the summer, and when next season tips off, they’ll find an even more determined Jets, a Turkeys coming back from a down year after some key player absences and a young Wolves team desperate for success joining them at base camp ready to ascend once again.
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