Robert Bailey, Gleaner Writer
Urban Knights are still the Flow/National Basketball League (FNBL) champions. The defending champions clinched the 2013 title with an exciting 57-53 victory over the Spanish Town Spartans in their Game Three decider on Thursday night at the National Arena.
This was the Knights' fifth national title and the second straight for head coach Oneil Brown. The Knights won Game One 77-75 in triple overtime while Spartans forced a Game Three after a close 51-46 win over their rivals in Game Two on Tuesday.
"I knew that once we controlled the rebounds, it would be all over," said Brown. "A lot of people had written us off, saying we were not going to win because Spartans whipped us three times in the regular season, but this (the finals) is what matters most ...," he said.
Led by Omar Barnes' game-23 points and nine rebounds, the Knights won the first quarter 16-13. However, the Spartans rallied strong in the second period as they stepped up their defence, which forced the Knights to commit eight turnovers. The Spartans went on to outscore their opponents 17-13 to take a narrow 30-29 lead at half-time.
The better team
The Spartans, who defeated the Knights twice this season to win the Southern Conference and midseason titles, respectively, looked the better team in the third stanza as they increased their lead to 43-40.
The major highlight of the third quarter came when Javon Bailey, a national representative, drove by four Knights players to lay-up the ball over centre Oneil Mundle to loud cheers from the Spartans bench.
However, the Knights came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth quarter as they went on a 8-2 run to take a narrow 48-45 lead with five minutes remaining in the quarter. Knights captain Fernando Young was also excellent for the champions as he netted eight of his 13 points in the fourth period, to lift his team.
"I am really happy with how my team played tonight, especially in the fourth quarter where we took the game to our opponents," said Brown.
"This one is tougher than last year because the Spartans played a good final but I think in the end the experience of my team pulled it off for us," Brown added.
Bailey was the leading scorer for the Spartans with 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. He received support from Akeem Swaby, nine and Lynford Brown, eight.
Calvin Martin, coach of the Spartans, said the inexperience of his players let them down.
"We weren't able to match their intensity for all three games. Urban Knights played very quick right throughout the series and most times we were playing catch-up apart from in Game Two," Martin said.