Actually, we did pretty well, considering the condition in which I found the team. Lucaso had left Tekal behind because he hadn't come to practice since August. During my absence, a local coach had put in a strange offense, dropping mine. It seemed to be designed for a man-to-man defense, which might have worked if Trinidad hadn't played a zone. My most serious problem, however, was that the players who had remained in Antigua were jealous of those I'd taken to the U.S. The stay-behinds felt slighted and were determined to make life miserable for the transplants and me.
We had two more games left in our flight to see who'd play in the championship game. We were scheduled to play Dominica in two days, a team we were supposed to beat. We practiced twice a day, and I tried to solve my problems: with Tekal gone, no real center; a strange new offense; and lots of dissension.
We lost to Dominica by 10 points. All the advice I gave my team fell on deaf ears. Our 1-3-1 trap leaked badly and nobody could make a basket. Even the transplants played poorly. Our team's morale hit bottom because we'd been eliminated from any chance to play for the championship.
But we still had Jamaica left to play. The defending champions seemed invincible. They had men with NBA size, and their best player was called Skywalker, for obvious reasons. If we could beat them, we could salvage our pride. I figured we were 30-point underdogs, especially on their home court. Where was Bobby when I needed him?
The day before the finale, Lucaso gave a heartrending speech to the team and me. He told how he had put himself on the line with the government to get money for the trip. He reminded the guys about the love they should have for their mother country, and he made it clear that we had to make an honorable showing or, frankly, he would be too embarrassed to go home and face his superiors.
I worked hard with the team. We began to have better practices, mostly because the players realized I wouldn't quit on them. I played Bum and Grantly more and the transplants less. The jealousies began to fade.
When the game started, the arena was packed with Jamaicans. As I'd anticipated, their team tried to get the ball inside. But we clogged up the lane and made them shoot from the perimeter. When they missed, they played volleyball with the ball until they scored. But we were scoring, too, and were only eight points down at the half.
Jamaica scored two quick baskets to start the second half. Then, a miracle began to unfold. During the next eight minutes, we outscored them 30 to 4. They called their last time-out with nine minutes left in the game. We were ahead by 14 points. We were as bewildered as the crowd. I even began to get silly and think we could hold on. Their coach wisely changed to a man-to-man defense. Since I'd thrown out our man-to-man offense, we started having trouble scoring. We were losing our lead, fast. With 4:32 remaining, I called our last time-out. We were five points ahead and couldn't score. I lined the team up in the four-corner offense and told Nya to handle the ball. I assigned the rest of the guys a corner to stand in. During the next four minutes, Nya and Wyllie each scored a basket—and the Jamaicans scored seven points. We were up by two.
By this time, the officials had given in to the highly partisan crowd and were hurting us badly. With 32 seconds left, Skywalker made two free throws to tie the score. The next scenes are vivid in my memory:
We get the ball inbounds. Nya dribbles around for 12 seconds and shoots wildly. There's a mad scramble. Bodies are flying. The ball is flicked loose and bounces out in the lane. Grantly roars out of the pack, picks up the ball and rainbows it toward the basket. He scores!