Basketball

Falcons overcome obstacles to win Tip Off Classic title

by: Buster Laing, GrandBahamaSports.com

The Tabernacle Baptist Falcons battled the pressure of being ranked the No.1 team on Grand Bahama.

A player battled the loss of his sister, who died in a traffic wreck during the tournament.

Then on Championship night of the GBSSAA Domino's Pizza and Coca Cola Tip-off classic, they now had to face second ranked Eight Mile Rock Blue jays for a 32 minute epic battle in a hostile environment.

When the final buzzer sounded, Robert Joseph and the Falcons overcame all odds to defeat the Blue jays 59-53 in front of the tournament biggest crowd of over 2,500 fans that packed the St. George gymnasium on Tuesday night.

" This was very special, hats off to the guys, they played hard...I'm happy for them and I hope they learned a lot of lessons they can take into life from this game,"  said Falcons' coach Norris Bain, who also remembered his player who lost his sister.

" It's a sad time for Melvin (Elsie), his sister past away recently and he had to play with all of that on his mind, but congratulations to him because he gets to take a ring home for his senior year." 

The game gave the fans who lined the gymnasium exactly what they paid for, as most of the fans stood from the opening tipoff until the final buzzer.

The Falcons led 36-25 after Raheem Laing hit back to back three pointers that sent the fans into a frenzy with 4:38 left in the third.

Then the Bluejays' Hakeem Stuart woke up and took the game over.

Stuart fuelled a charge by the Blue Jays and went coast to coast and scored on layups to narrow the lead to 53-51 with 1:33 left, which brought a thunderous roar from the loud Blue jays fan section. Stuart was unstoppable and scored 18 second half points.

After Joseph hit one of two free-throws to make the score 54-51 with 1:18 left; then it was Melvin Elsie, who lost his sister in a terrible car crash on Saturday morning, who came up with the biggest play of the game.

With 59.9 left and Eight Mile Rock in possession of the ball, a mad scramble for the loose ball ensued as the ball was tossed high into the air and then tapped to Rashad Russell, who spotted a streaking Elsie running down court, who scored the clinching layup to make the score 56-51.

" I knew if I had missed that layup, I would not have gotten my ring," said Elsie.

" So I had to make the layupâ ¦my ring is coming...This one is over!" 

Joseph scored 17 points and grabbed two rebounds and was named MVP.

" Coach told us to stay focused on the game and donâ t worry about the press, just come out and play hard," said Joseph.

" This win was dedicated to Elsieâ s sister, she was like a big sister to me so everything we did was just for her." 

Russell added 14 points and two rebounds.

" It came down to who wanted the title the most and this gives us a lot of confidence for the upcoming season," said Russell.

" I thank God for the win." 

For The Blue jays, Stuart had a monster game by scoring 28 points and four rebounds. Deondre Jones scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds.

This one is just beginning.

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