On-court generals proved key, says Tucker
Kenyatta Tucker has hailed the impact of his “on-court generals” after his BGA Hornets clinched the Elite City League final with a 2-1 series win over the Eastern Zone Warriors.
Tuckers's side secured the title after defeating their heated rivals 65-53 in the best-of-three decider at the CedarBridge Academy Gymnasium on Wednesday.
Hornets, who won game one 69-65 before losing game two 65-58, trailed by four points at half-time but clicked into gear in the second half thanks to impressive displays by key trio Kevin Stephens, Kameron James and Akil Smith.
Shooting guard Stephens was the game's top scorer with 31 points while James and Smith delivered disciplined defensive performances to help disrupt the rhythm of Warriors danger man Te'jour Riley.
“Kevin, Kameron and Akil had phenomenal games,” said Tucker, who celebrated his first title as Hornets coach.
“Having those three floor generals in the huddles during the intervals and timeouts, and executing on the court made the world of difference for us.
“It's impossible for the other team to apply pressure on the ball in crunch times when you have those three because they understand the game really well.
“They're strong at dribbling the ball and their court awareness is phenomenal. They gave us the advantage.”
Hornets started the series as the underdogs, having lost three times to Warriors during the regular season, although the pendulum swung in Tuckers's side's favour when Omar Wolfe, their opponent's talisman, picked up a suspension in game one, ruling him out of the remainder of the finals.
“The Warriors are a really well-balanced team and bested us throughout the [league] season,” said Tucker, who coaches the Twisters in the Bermuda Basketball League.
“They had the advantage [as the No 1 seeds], but we stole game one before they bounced back in game two.
“They also had a key suspension in game one with Omar Wolfe missing the rest of the series. However, even without him they were able to beat us in game two. It was different in game three, though. We executed our plan.”
Recognising the danger posed by Riley, Tucker deployed Sabur Burrows with the tough task of subduing the Warriors' man, who was restricted to 21 points in game three.
Tucker also devised a tactic to keep in check the free-scoring Darae Smith, who punished Hornets in game two with 28 points, nine rebounds and an assist.
“There was a lot of trash talk going on and it was the battle of the bragging rights as you had the best two players on the island on opposing teams, Kevin Stephens and Te'jour Riley,” added Tucker, who also praised the hunger shown by his teenage substitutes Leano Ming and Zakai Bean.
“Our focus was to try and keep the ball out of Te'jour's hands and force them to score without him dictating the outcome of the game.
“Sabur is one of the three-point shooters and he helps us spread the court a bit.
“More importantly, he's also one of our best defenders and normally we have him guard their best player. He did a fantastic job guarding Te'jour. Akil Smith also did a great job on Darae Smith.”
Having missed out on the title in his previous two seasons as the Hornets coach, Tucker made it his priority to secure the services of long-term targets in the pre-season draft.
“There were players in the previous draft I wasn't able to pick up,” he said.
“Akil was one of those and that definitely showed in the difference in the outcome this season. I've coached Kevin for a number of years and it was about getting a supporting cast around him that really worked.”