Feb. 20, 2007 — The Central High Caribs have lost some early season games, but the team and coaches never seemed too worried.
When asked about the defending high school basketball champions' lack of early season success, all coach Alvan Jarvis would say was that the race is not always for the swiftest.
After this weekend's Central High Invitational Basketball Tournament, Jarvis must have known what he was talking about as his Caribs swept through the tournament undefeated, crushing perennial powerhouse Charlotte Amalie 77-58 in the championship game.
"Earlier in the season I had a lot of players hurt, but I did not complain. I just played with what I had, said Jarvis, adding, the team is just about healthy now and when we have our full team, it is hard to beat us."
"You see how we handle them? I think we beat everybody by almost 20 points. What you're seeing now is the result of all the practice we put in. Nobody practices like us. We practiced all throughout the Christmas break when a lot of them was off," said Jarvis.
The Caribs started fast, opening an 8-3 lead in the first quarter. Riding the hot hand of forward Khalid Gerard, the Chicken Hawks, however, came back to tie the game at 8-8 midway through the period. The Caribs then went on a 10-0 run to close out the quarter with an 18-8 lead.
The second quarter started out evenly with lots of defense and very little offense, but when the Caribs big man in the middle, Craig "Big Smooth" Williams, picked up his third foul and had to go to the bench, the Chicken Hawks started taking the ball inside. Without the shot blocker in the middle, the Chicken Hawks were able to slowly cut into the Caribs lead and trailed 24-20 with two minutes left in the half.
After an exchange of baskets, the score stood at 26-22 with 58 seconds left, but the Caribs closed out the half on a 7-2 run to take a 33-26 lead into the locker room.
The Caribs came out blazing in the second half, opening the third quarter on an 11-2 run to all but shut the door on the Chicken Hawks championship hopes. They turned up the pressure defensively, which forced the Hawks into numerous turnovers while simultaneously keeping the Chicken Hawks' best player, Gerard, in check.
The Hawks finally settled down midway through the third quarter and fought back to get to within 10 with 1:35 left in the third, but two free throws by the Caribs Steven James, extended the lead to 53-41 at the end of three quarters.
A tenacious defense ignited by Caribs point guard Omari Eastman and shooting guard Rashawn Williams enabled the Caribs to put the game away early in the fourth quarter. The two guards were all over the place, picking the pockets of the Chicken Hawks ball handlers and diving for loose balls.
It was an intensity that the Chicken Hawks could not match. And when Coach Jarvis inserted James off the bench, he took the Caribs to yet another level. His inside play on the offensive board was commendable as he, along with the guards, helped the Caribs to start the fourth and final quarter on a 12-2 run to open up a 22 point lead at 65-43.
From there the rout was on; the Chicken Hawks could get no closer than 18 points the rest of the way.
Adding insult to injury, with less than 10 seconds left in the game, "Big Smooth" brought the crowd to its feet when he rose high and slammed home the final basket of the game. The late game excitement came about when the Caribs Eastman picked off an inbound pass and dished the ball to Williams, who knew exactly what to do with it.
The Caribs were led by Olani Vanterpoole, who netted 18 points, while Rashawn Williams and "Big Smooth" Williams each chipped in with 15.
The Chiken Hawks were led by Gerard, arguably one of the three best players in the tournament, who finished with 19 points. However, 15 of his points came in the first half, as fatigue and a more intense Carib defense limited him to just four second-half points. Teammate Ryan Mills netted 14 points in a losing effort for the Hawks.
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