Strickland keeps up Winling streak
AT the end of it all, Wayman Strickland was pleased. Not only did he lead his team to a third straight local basketball title, he was voted Most Valuable Player for the third year in a row after leading Winling to a 91-81 victory over Seapower to win the Henderson Cup.
The 27-year-old's speed, agility and all-round court craft were there for all to see at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, even though the match was marred by two incidents in which players almost came to blows.
Trouble started early in the second period when Seapower's Daryl Parker grappled with Winling's Craig Brown in Seapower's key, sparking off a near-melee.
Tempers flared again with 13 minutes and 50 seconds left on the clock when Winling's Calvin Talford and Seapower's Michael New were involved in a run-in after tussling for the ball, but the near-brawl was brought under control almost as soon as it started.
'It almost got out of hand,' admitted Strickland of the physically bruising final.
'They [Seapower] were behind on points and they played a physical game to try to put us off.' Strickland, who has had trials with the NBA's Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors, picked up $8,000 for his MVP award.
'Winning individual awards is very nice but it is more important to win the championship for your team,' added the American, who top-scored with 21 points.
Michael Bell chipped in 16 points, as did Talford. Tony Massop also contributed with 13 points.
Winling led 55-38 at the half-time buzzer and seemed to be running away with the title when they led 60-44.
However, Seapower narrowed the deficit to just three points thanks to Darrin Sanderlin's three-pointer and Jessie Salters, who put away a fine basket.
But Winling, who were struggling to find their target in open play, came good in the free throws to help them maintain their lead.
Talford and Scott Patterson between them nailed down five out of six free throws as Winling edged further ahead. And when Talford scored with a fine lay-up to give his team a 83-74 lead, the worst seemed over for Winling.
Despite a brief comeback by Seapower, Winling held on to their lead, for a 91-81 victory - and $100,000 first prize money.
Meanwhile, Fukien defeated Sin Kee Tycoon 83-82 to snatch third place.