Suns beat Heat in 3 OT to repeat as RCBL champs

Asil Cash (front fourth from left) holds the Golden Rim trophy as the Suns and young fans celebrate a second straight title. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The RCBL season came down to one last game and then some Monday night at the Boys and Girls Club in Edgartown. With the best-of-three series tied, 1-1, the Suns and the Heat left everything out on the floor in one of the most memorable games in three decades of league play. The hotly contested series came to an epic, gruelling close as the Suns outlasted the Heat, 116-113, in triple overtime to repeat as league champions.

With the game tied at 113-113, Matt Brown scored what proved to be the winning bucket, a put back off of Paul Linderson’s initial shot with 35 seconds left in the third extra period. Asil Cash added an insurance free throw. Nick Viera’s last gasp shot for the Heat failed to reach the basket and the Suns had defended their title. The last team to repeat as league champs were the Heat in the 2009-10, 2010-11 seasons.

The big win capped off a post-season surge by the Suns, who had a tough regular season and came into the playoffs as the low seed. The Suns swept the top-seeded Bulls in the semifinals and rallied from a game down in the finals. They also erased a 15-point deficit in the decisive game.

Through three periods Monday night, a Suns victory in game three was seriously in doubt. The Heat’s outside shooting was razor sharp, particularly in the first half, as they drained 11 treys en route to a 60-49 halftime lead. The lead grew to 15 in the third quarter, with the Heat up, 79-64. The Suns shaved the lead down to 83-74 heading into the final period and continued to chip away.

Cut to 7:42 left in regulation, when Asil Cash hit the first of three crucial three-pointers. The first trey sliced the Heat lead to 90-88, the second left the Heat ahead 94-93. Jade Cash sank two free throws to put the Suns ahead at 95-94. Lucas Brewer responded with a free throw and a bucket to put the Heat back on top, 96-95. Asil then popped in his third trey of the quarter to tie the game at 98-98. The Cashes — Jade, then Asil — put the Suns up by four only to have Nick Viera and Will Fielding answer for the Heat.

In the final minute, Lucas Brewer missed a three-point attempt. With three ticks left, Sandy Fisher stole Asil Cash’s inbounds pass. The Heat called timeout with 0:02 on the clock and had one last chance to end the game in regulation. Sandy Fisher nearly made a shot for the ages as the ball bounced off the rim from half court. After 48 minutes, the teams went to overtime tied at 102.

Jade Cash and Nick Viera traded baskets in the first overtime. On to the second three-minute period. Again, the teams scored two points each. Viera had the clear highlight, racing in from half-court, cutting to the hoop, and scooping the ball up and in from behind his head.

Somehow, the teams found an extra reserve of energy for the third overtime. Asil Cash and Tim Scott drove to the basket, exchanging layups. Paul Linderson banked one in off the glass for the Suns and Nick Viera answered with a no-look underhanded bank shot of his own, made while he fell to the floor, ten feet from the hoop.

With the score 110-110, Asil dished to Jade Cash underneath and added a free-throw off the next possession. Lucas Brewer then tied the game for the last time by sinking his seventh three of the game.

With another RCBL season in the books, no league MVP was officially named, but Jade Cash would have to be it with Nick Viera a close second. In the championship clincher, Jade led the Suns with 45 points. Asil was stellar as well with 39. Nick Viera had 43 for the Heat, followed by Lucas Brewer (29), Tim Scott (15) and Will Fielding (10).