Tigers hold Ambassadors at bay to book preliminary final spot
Tigers’ hopes of back-to-back premierships remain alive after they prevailed in a gritty, hard-fought elimination first semifinal over Ambassadors in the Albany Basketball Association men’s A-grade competition on Tuesday night.
Rocked by news they would face sudden death instead of a finals double chance after finishing locked on points with Barking Owls, but having a higher overall percentage, Tigers fought tooth and nail to progress to a preliminary final.
Ambassadors led early in the first half before Tigers ground their way back with five consecutive points from Dean Gliosca, helping them take a 21-18 advantage into the break.
The two sides traded baskets and the lead for the first few minutes of the second half until Tigers settled as John Santia knocked down his third triple of the night and skipper Tim Button was also beginning to have a real influence.
Tigers led by eight points with five minutes to play, but Ambassadors were always close enough to challenge, and they did when Kye Griffiths reduced the margin to four with just over two minutes to play.
A late intentional foul, though, pretty much ended Ambassadors’ run as Corey Ward hit one free throw and Tigers kept possession, to score a 44-39 win.
Ward was impressive with 11 points, while the wise heads of John Santia (11 points) and Tim Button (10) showed their vast experience and class in the finals, as they have done so many times before.
Tigers went at 64 per cent from the line and were wayward from three-point land, hitting five of 22 attempts, but after losing their final regular game of the season they bounced back quickly.
Ambassadors were left to rue shooting at 12 per cent from long range, including missing all eight second-half attempts, while star Caleb Carmen was in early foul trouble and contributed just 6 points.
Griffiths finished with 9 points and Jaylen Beattie (7) looked on early with a long three-pointer but, like his team, failed to go on with it in the last period.
Owls secured their ninth consecutive grand final appearance after thrashing Knights by 29 points in the second semifinal.
Knights trailed by 10 points at half-time but failed to make any inroads in the second half as Justin Benson finished with a game-high 20 points to lead his side to a comfortable 68-39 result.
Carwin Garcia (14), Red Rogers (14) and Brody Hickey (10) provided valuable support to Benson, while only Keanu Weeden (10) reached double figures for Knights, who will face Tigers in the preliminary final.
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