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Bulls, Sonics start season with wins

The Co-operators General Insurance Premier League basketball season bounced off with more of a pop than a bang at the Wildey Gymnasium last night.

Both Burger King Clapham Bulls and Urban Vybz St John’s Sonics registered scrappy and unimpressive victories to advance to the next round of the season opening knockout competition.

Clapham made a meal of the pesky Combined Schools Tridents before eventually coming away with a 67-58 victory, while St John’s Sonics downed a hapless-looking Cougars outfit 82-56 in the night’s final game.

At least it marked a victorious return to the Premier league for both Clapham – who were demoted to the Intermediate division in 2013 –– and their estranged coach, Barry Rock, who was taking charge of his first game since 2012.

Clapham Bulls' Ramon Byer grabs this rebound during the match against Combined Schools Tridents.

Clapham Bulls’ Ramon Byer grabs this rebound during the match against Combined Schools Tridents.

With no signs of rust from either the Bulls or Schoolboys early on, it led to a high quality and thoroughly entertaining opening quarter.

Combined Schools Tridents' Derion Hurley on his way to the basket for an easy layup.

Combined Schools Tridents’ Derion Hurley on his way to the basket for an easy layup.

In fact, Jehu Lafeuillee almost provided the first highlight reel of the season just minutes into the game, but his thunderous two-handed baseline dunk over the Bulls’ Sean Parris rimmed out, much to Parris’ relief.

It didn’t take long for Daniel Lovell to get the Bulls going though, as he opened their account with a trey on the way to scoring his team’s first six points.

Thanks to the efforts of the lanky Lafeuillee and Andrew Ifill, the schoolboys kept close, with the two accounting for all but six of their team’s 24 first quarter points.

While Lafeuillee used his height to out-rebound his shorter defenders for easy buckets around the rim, Ifill was content to muscle his way to the basket, which regularly earned him trips to the free-throw line.

And with the Schoolboys’ defence helping to keep Bulls’ floor general Rahiim Gibbons quiet, it resulted in a tied 24-24 scoreline at the end of the first period.

However, once that surreal first quarter ended, neither team managed to find an offensive rhythm.

It resulted in both teams combining for just 25 points in the ensuing period, as Clapham went to the half holding a slim 36-35 lead.

Things got even worse for the Schoolboys after the break, as they only managed to score ten points in the third quarter, while committing several turnovers, which fortunately for them, Bulls failed to take advantage of.

Heading into the final quarter trailing 45-49, Nikolai Burton’s jumper from the top of the key got them within two (51-49) with 7:27 left on the clock.

However, they’d get no closer the rest of the way, as Parris together with Gibbons each scored crucial baskets to ensure their return to the sport’s highest league would be a winning one.

Lovell led all scorers with 23 points, while Gibbons had 11 and Parris added 10 points.

For the Schoolboys, Burton had a team-high 19 points, Ifill scored 15 and Lafeuillee had 14 points.

In the nightcap, national player Akeem Marsh showed why he is considered arguably the best player on the island, scoring a game high 20 points to lead Sonics to a blowout victory.

Marsh showed off his arsenal of moves, including two thunderous two-handed slams against a Cougars side missing two of its best players –– Adrian Stewart and Godfrey Leacock.

The contest was over almost as soon as it began, with Sonics rushing out to an early 20-10 lead inside the opening five minutes.

From thereon it was simply ‘The Marsh Show’ as the athletic forward did as he pleased against the Cougars nonchalant defence.

The lead ballooned to as many as 25 at one point (56-31), with St John’s eventually emptying their bench in the final quarter with the outcome long decided.

Stefan Clarke added 15 points for the winners and Shane Whittaker scored 12.

Ricardo Jemmott had 16 points in a losing effort for Cougars and Neil Harewood chipped in with ten points.

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