Strickland's trey lifts Energy
By UNUS ALLADIN
PICTURE the scenario: Seconds left on the clock at Queen Elizabeth Stadium; scores tied at 63-63 and overtime beckoning. Enter Wayman Strickland, last year's Super Commercial Cup Most Valuable Player and star shooter.
Supremely confident, the 26-year-old guard dribbled in and then out of the key, set and then threw the ball skywards watching in glee as he slotted the three-pointer - right on the buzzer.
It could not have been a more sensational finish to the territory's most prestigious tournament as Strickland closed out rivals Frankwell to lead two-time defending champions Energy to a 66-63 triumph and their third straight Super Commercial Cup title.
By doing so, Energy avenged their 81-70 loss to Frankwell in last Tuesday's preliminary round.
'I was very confident of making that shot,' said Strickland, who was mobbed by his teammates after nailing the winner.
'I was telling everybody to clear out of the way so I could make my move. I just knew it was going to go in. I'm just glad I had the ball in my hands to nail that shot.' Strickland's heroics earned him his second straight MVP, but that's just a bonus for the 1.88-metre American, who top scored with 18 points.
'It's nice to be voted MVP, but it's more important winning the championship. It was closer this year . . . much tougher as well. We had a very tough game against China last night [Friday night] while Frankwell had it a lot easier in their semi-final after blowing away Seapower.
'To win two very tough matches is really gratifying,' said Strickland, who will play in the Russian league from September.
Frankwell, made up entirely of Ukrainian players, were stunned by the loss.
They finished the stronger of the two, chipping away at Energy's 29-23 half-time lead to level 37-37 two minutes into the second period.
A Dmitri Bazelevski three-pointer gave them the lead for the first time at 59-58.
But Energy fought back with a basket by Cheyenne Gibson - making his last appearance before retiring - and then three successful free throws, two by Strickland, to make it 63-61. Frankwell, with 2.14-metre giant Grygoriy Khyzhnyak fouled out, called time out with 27.5 seconds left on the clock.
Volodymyr Kholopov sunk a basket to square the scores at 63-63, but Strickland nailed the shot that really mattered to give his side the title.
Energy team manager Stanley Au Kai-kwong could not contain his delight.
'It could have gone to extra-time, but Wayman really struck it good in the end.
'Even if we had gone to extra-time, I was confident my boys would still have taken the title,' he said.
China defeated Seapower 107-77 in the third place play-off with Sun Jun sinking 36 points.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong Basketball Association Chan Shui-tim said next year's league would start earlier to ensure the Super Commercial Cup was concluded before the handover.
'We will organise a bigger tournament, but I cannot announce details just yet.' He did, however, say that the Hong Kong Super Commercial Cup All-star team will take on the China Super Commercial Cup All-star team on July 3 at Southorn Stadium.