Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Dwight Clair, the Granville Jaguars head coach, praised his team's gutsy performance on the weekend, which saw them becoming the first Western Conference team to qualify for the Flow NBL national play-off quarter-finals.
This was achieved after their close 72-70 win over Spanish Town Spartans at the Montego Bay Cricket Club, with forward Leroy Lawrence and Andrew Whilby making worthwhile contributions to guarantee the victory.
They will take on Runnin' Rebels this Saturday at the UTech auditorium, with tip-off scheduled for 5 p.m.
"To be the first team to qualify from the west for the last eight is a wonderful feeling," declared Clair.
The Jaguars had also qualified for the post-preliminary segment last season, but were booted in the first round of the play-offs - losing to Selassie Gardens.
This time, however, Clair said his charges are better prepared for the rigours of knockout basketball.
"Making it this far means we are doing some things right and we must continue to do so to win our first major title," Clair reasoned.
Granville Jaguars have been having an outstanding season, putting up triple-digit scores on four occasions on their impressive run to the final against Catherine Hall All Stars.
They still hold the best record of all the western teams at 15-1, brushing aside all comers during the regular season. Their only defeat was to the returning champions, Catherine Hall Al Stars, which Clair deemed an aberration and not indicative of his club's character this season.
"There is always room for improvement and, in spite of the fact that we lost in the final, we know what we are capable of and now we have the chance to prove that we are a good team in the quarter-finals.
"For now, it's where we are looking. After getting by Runnin' Rebels, then we can talk about the semi and then the final," Clair said.
The Jaguars will be looking to the outstanding inside play of Lawrence and Whilby, plus Levar Rose, to get them past the dangerous Rebels on Saturday.
"The Rebels is a well-known team which pushes the ball up court quickly; that we do know. What we also know is that we will be doing what has kept us in the season to this point: playing good, composed basketball, and tightening up on defence."