PRINCETON: Cool Runnings forces Game 3

Jerido’s free throws set up decisive title game tonight

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
   One of the smallest guys has come up big all season for Cool Runnings.
   After a quiet first half when he deferred to his teammates, high-scoring guard Al Jerido did so again with three free throws with 18 seconds left to give Cool Runnings a 41-39 win over defending champion George’s Roasters and Ribs/Ivy Inn, and even the best-of-three series, 1-1, in the Princeton Recreation Men’s Summer Basketball League on Wednesday.
   ”We knew we could beat them,” said Jerido, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half. “Friday, it’s whoever comes out harder, whoever plays harder. Whoever leaves it all out on the court, that’s going to be the team that survives.”
   The decisive Game 3 is 8 tonight at Community Park. In case of inclement weather, it will be at Princeton High School, site of both Monday’s Game 1, a 44-42 George’s/Ivy win on two free throws from Scott Findlay with four seconds left, and Wednesday’s Cool Runnings win.
   ”Last game, it slipped away,” Jerido said. “We slacked off on defense and let them get in a rhythm and let them get shots they shouldn’t have gotten. They put us away last time.”
   Jerido had scored 24 for Cool Runnings, but it was George’s/Ivy that had clawed back from a nine-point deficit with eight minutes to play for the win Monday. Findlay led the way with 22 points. Wednesday, Findlay had to battle for all 15 of his points.
   ”We have to keep their big man off the boards, keep him out of the game,” Jerido said. “That’s their key. That’s their focus man. Everything feeds off him. If we keep the big man off balance, we’ll be all right.”
   George’s/Ivy knows if it can keep Jerido in check, it has a good shot to win it. But Wednesday, Jerido let him teammates start quickly and he finished fast.
   ”Al told me before the game that he was going to play a little less aggressive,” said Cool Runnings’ forward RJ Wilks. “So I was going to try to pick up my offense.”
   A defensive-minded player, the Rider University graduate chipped in 10 points on top of Lamar Farr’s 12 points to give Cool Runnings good balance Wednesday.
   ”I knew they were focused on me because last game I shot very well,” Jerido said. “Both times we played, I shot very well. I knew when we came out tonight, they were looking for me to shoot so I let everybody else be more aggressive and get involved more. It helped down in the end because our big man made some tough shots because he was in rhythm.”
   There was little doubt, however, whom Cool Runnings was going to with the game on the line. They found Jerido.
   ”He’s been making big shots for us all season,” Wilks said. “It wasn’t any less of an expectation tonight.”
   With six minutes to go Wednesday, Jerido’s three-pointer gave Cool Runnings a 35-30 lead. A basket by Findlay and a three-pointer from Princeton High School graduate Bobby Davison cut the Cool Runnings’ lead to 37-36 with 2:30 left. Davison hit three three-pointers in the second half for all nine of his points.
   Brian Halligan gave George’s/Ivy a 38-37 lead with under two minutes and PHS graduate Brian Dunlap made the front end of a 1-and-1 with 30 seconds left to push the lead to 39-37 before Jerido was fouled by DeQuan Holman while attempting a three-pointer with 18 ticks left.
   ”I didn’t need a three,” Jerido said, “but I knew he was playing aggressive. I thought it was my best opportunity to put them away. I was looking to put them away.”
   Jerido stepped to the foul line and sank all three shots for a 40-39 advantage.
   ”If he got two of the three, that was good,” Wilks said. “I guess I owe him dinner now since he made all three tonight.”
   Halligan missed a 15-foot jump shot with eight seconds to play and after Wilks hit one free throw for a two-point edge with six seconds left, Halligan attempted to drive the floor after the second free throw missed, but his off-balance attempt was off target. The win erased the feeling Cool Runnings had after its Game 1 loss.
   ”We should have won,” Jerido said. “That hurt to let it slip away. But after that feeling today, getting over the hump, I think now it’s going to be a different case Friday. They know we can beat them. They beat us twice by two points. Now we beat them. I think we put a little more fear in their hearts than we had before.”
   Added Wilks: “I’m proud of these guys. We came out and showed up. We played really good defense.”
   George’s/Ivy played Wednesday without one of its regulars, Shahid Abdul-Karim. University of Notre Dame graduate Torian Jones missed Wednesday’s game for Cool Runnings after suffering a severely sprained ankle in Monday’s loss. Winning without Jones was a big boost for Cool Runnings. They will likely have to do so again tonight.
   ”Guys talked to him, and he felt pretty bad today,” Wilks said. “They said he couldn’t walk so I’m not expecting him to play Friday.
   ”If we show up and we have to execute on defense the way we did tonight and knock some shots down, that’s going to be big for us.”
   The formula worked well to hand George’s/Ivy only its second loss in two seasons in the Princeton league. Knocking them off again — this time for the title — will is a big task that Cool Runnings welcomes.
   ”We’re definitely the underdogs,” Jerido said. “There’s no way anybody thinks we’re going to win. I like the idea of being the underdog. We’re definitely confident.”