Sunday may have marked the official start of the 2017-SKNABA campaign, but for the KINGS, it offered one more opportunity for the PRIDE family to put the entire league on notice!
It was the organization’s first premier league game, the first for the Sandy Point community in over 15 years. It was also a match up against the 2016 premier league champions St. Paul’s Tuff Knots, which only added to the frenzied, surreal basketball spirit and the PRIDE KINGS met the moment, just as they did all of last season, led by Cha Vez Belboda- 26 points (11 of 17) in just 25 minutes of play and Taslin Dont-Cheat Hodge– 13pts 10 assists 2steals, the Lions treated their fans to much the same of what spurred their championship run last season in handing their opponent a 79-64 opening night defeat.
Javal HodgeHodge, who addressed the team after the win reminded his new teammates that it’s “SP against the world,” a reminder of his intangible leadership prowess, a trait which made him attractive to the PRIDE recruiters during the offseason. Fellow newcomer and veteran big-man Jazbu Troy Whattley finished with a gritty 8 points, 2 blocks and 6 rebounds before being relegated to the bench after picking up a number of questionable fouls, perhaps buoyed by the opening excitement.
The TuffKnots, who were without it’s captain and 2016 league MVP Nashorn Maynard were held to just 36% shooting on 25 of 71 field goal attempts. As Sunday, with such a rare night at hand, was about PRIDE flexing its strengths.
Ansel Bonzi Revan routinely kept his defender off-balance en route to registering a solid performance with 8points 4blocks and 2steals, and also anchored the defense in the fourth quarter when the KINGS pulled away. PRIDE outscored the TUFFKNOTS 30-15 in that frame.
If it wasn’t Revan it was Lyle Graeme Browne (14 rebounds 4 steals 2 blocks), one of the teams off-season acquisitions, who Coach Rameece Belboda kept alert and engaged from the tip with an emphasis on solid perimeter defense. They needed it after shooting just 3 of 14 from the three-point line in the first 3 quarters.
There also seemed to be a common theme within the PRIDE organization this week, and it’s that they won’t be content simply with one A-Division title.
“If one championship is enough for you, then you shouldn’t be here!” Coach Rameece Belboda told his players.
That might’ve been the memo from PRIDE manager Randy B DeSouza because he said essentially the same thing during the team’s social and media event on Thursday.
“There’s only one thing left to do,” Desouza said. “Win the Premier!