Suns, Heat win RCBL playoff openers

Jason O' Donnell of the Lakers (left) and Adam Rebello of the Heat lock up in the trenches. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Suns and The Heat took 1-0 series leads as the RCBL playoffs got underway Monday night at the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club in Edgartown.

The top-seeded Suns tipped off against the fourth seeded Bulls in the opening game. The league leaders were nearly perfect in the regular season and came into the game with an 11-1 record, while the resurgent Bulls overcame an 0-7 start to win three of their last five games, including the last two.

For the first 20 minutes, the Bulls seemed like the top seed, but the Suns roared back from an 18-point first quarter deficit and won out, 104-96.

The Bulls scored the first nine points, led by 22-4, and carried a double-digit lead deep into the second quarter. Down 53-38, the Suns finally caught fire and reeled off a 15-0 run, capped by two Asil Cash three-pointers, to tie the game with 15 seconds left in the first half. The Bulls responded with a bucket and escaped with a 55-53 lead at the break.

Enter Jade Cash, who produced one of the great quarters in the 25-year history of the RCBL. Cash scored 24 points in the third period, including the basket that finally put the Suns ahead for the first time, 73-72, with 3:36 left in the period. The Bulls briefly regained the lead but never got their groove back. The Suns led by as many as 12 points in the final period and were never seriously threatened.

Jade Cash led all scorers with 39 points. Asil Cash finished with 26 points and Sterling Bishop had 19. The Bulls had five players in double figures. Jared Silvia had 22 points. Brant Silvia and Adam O’ Neal each scored 20, Jaron Schilling 18, and Luke Bettencourt 13.

As good as the opening game was, the nightcap was better as the Heat overcame the Lakers in the final seconds to claim a 93-91 win.

The two-time defending champion Heat came into the game losers of six straight, sporting a 3-9 record. The 7-5 Lakers had dropped three in a row.

The Lakers started the game the better of the two and twice led by seven in the first half. But the Heat, with only four regulars and two new recruits in the line-up, slowly warmed to the task and kept the game close. The Lakers led 40-39 at the half, 68-63 after three quarters, and grabbed their biggest lead of the game at 84-76, midway through the fourth.

The Heat chipped away. John Netto hit two three-pointers. Adam Rebello and Sandy Fisher both hit jumpers to cut the deficit to 87-86 with three minutes left. James Rolston and Jason O’ Donnell scored the next five for the Lakers. Lucas Brewer responded with a trey for the Heat. Rebello hit two free throws to tie it at 91-91 and swished a jumper to put the Heat in front with 7.1 ticks left.

The Lakers’ Jason O’ Donnell then threw a perfect inbounds pass cross-court to Lamar Moreis, who found Pat Rolston underneath. Rolston put up a lay-up that bounced in and out of the cylinder at the buzzer.

Lucas Brewer scored 28 to lead the Heat. Adam Rebello netted 22, John Netto 18, and Sandy Fisher 10. Jason O’ Donnell scored 21 for the Lakers, followed by Heath Estrella and James Rolston with 16, and Lamar Moreis with 10.

Game two of the respective semifinals will be at the Boys and Girls Club on Monday, February 18. The Lakers and Heat play at 6:15 pm, followed by the Suns and Bulls at 8 pm.

The teams are off the week of February 25 due to school vacation.