Marc Stamp, Sunday Gleaner Writer
Ardenne High and Old Harbour High captured the KFC/Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) national basketball Under-16 and Under-19 titles, respectively, at the National Stadium last Friday night.
In the Under-19 final, Ardenne maintained their unbeaten run when they turned back Manchester High 66-53, while Old Harbour High defeated Ardenne High 51-41 to take home the Under-16 trophy.
The senior final saw a ding-dong battle in the early stages but Ardenne proved the better team as they eased past their opponents in fourth quarter. Ardenne led at the end of each quarter with scores of 17-11, 33-27 and 49-40.
Ardenne Captain Javon Davis won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for the final after a game-high 26 points and 11 rebounds. Martin Gentles supported with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Sheldon Sutherland scored nine points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the winners.
MCNEIL MANCHESTER'S BEST
For Manchester High, Richard McNeil top scored with 15 points, Clive Lindo got 13 points, and Ricardo Miller finished with 10 points and five steals in a losing effort.
"We knew that we were better than Manchester as they finished fourth in their conference. However, the guys kept them in the game. But we were the better team. We worked hard for this victory, so thank God and the Ardenne family and every supporter for getting behind the team," Ardenne's coach Basil Barrett told The Sunday Gleaner after the game.
Earlier in the junior final, Old Harbour scored the first five points in the opening minutes and led 10-4 at the end of the first quarter. Ardenne took the lead for the first time in the game when the score was 17-14 and led 19-16 at half time.
However, Joel Bailey, who won the MVP crown for his outstanding performance, drove to the basket without fear and showed good vision with some spot-on passes. The 15-year-old point guard scored a game-high 20 points, grabbed one rebound and served three assists. Sannoy Reid supported with 14 points and two rebounds.
For Ardenne, Maliek McCarthy got 12 points and grabbed four rebounds, while Matthew Lee finished with nine points, six rebounds and two steals,
"It has been three years since I have been against Mr Barrett (Ardenne's coach) in a national final and it's the first time we have won. The feeling is a sweet one as we have beaten them - finally," an overjoyed Old Harbour coach, Pastor Ricardo Edwards told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Ardenne is an excellent team, but coming into the final, our game plan was to win and we did that. So congrats to the team and everyone who supported us throughout the season," Edwards added.
Edwards spoke highly of the outstanding Bailey and said he was one for the future. "Joel Bailey told me he wouldn't leave the court until we won, and although picking up an injury in the final minute, he showed great heart and inspired the team."
Ryan Silvera, marketing coordinator of title sponsor KFC, who watched both finals, was impressed with the schoolboys' league.
"The league is getting better. It is taking form. The students are getting involved and the quality has improved," Silvera noted.
"A lot of colleges and universities, especially from overseas, have come here to recruit players annually, so the high-school leagues are setting the stage for the development of Jamaica's basketball," Silvera reasoned.
In the Under-16 third-place play-off, Kingston College defeated Glenmuir High 42-38, while in the Under-19 play-off, KC blew away Holland High 87-23.