Soufriere Reign As Basketball Kings

The content originally appeared on: St. Lucia Times News

by Terry Finisterre

In the KFC National Basketball League regular season, 2023 finalists Morne Gladiators got the better of Soufriere Kings. Come the semifinals, the Gladiators defeated defending champions Bonne Terre Blazers, whilst the men from the west coast made their way to the one-off championship game by virtue of beating Courts Jets.

The tournament had been plagued by delays. Back in mid-April, the opening ceremony at the Beausejour Indoor Facility had to be postponed due to an electrical outage. The venue was then used as a practice facility for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, and was therefore unavailable for basketball.

The Vigie Multipurpose Sports Complex (VMPS), renovated between 2022 and 2023, remains uncovered, and so the Saint Lucia Basketball Federation was at the mercy of the elements. Games were repeatedly postponed due to rain. The only other available venue was the Soufriere court.

In the event, on Thursday evening at the VMPS, Soufriere revenged themselves on the Gladiators, and did what it took to lift the inaugural Ricky “Skecky” Estwick Trophy, named in honour of the late national team captain. A game that started out close, with Soufriere up by just five points, saw the eventual champions pulling away in the third period to take firm command of the fixture.

Behind veteran Linzell Alcee and the exciting young Jayzee Saltibus, Soufriere were up 16 going into the final stanza. Jayzee, a 22-year-old forward, compiled 14 points, 16 rebounds, and five steals, including numerous highlight dunks to seal his Most Valuable Player title. The Kings eventually won by 18 points, 69-47.

Kings assistant coach Eugustus Jean credited a true team effort, but pointed out some of the outstanding performers for his team over the course of the season.

“It was a long and arduous one,” said Jean. “We had a lot of growing pains in the beginning… We have a lot of skilled players, and it’s always a collective effort with us. We do it by committee. You have the likes of Jayzee – he was not with us for the first couple games, he was actually playing in a league in Antigua. We were able to do well without him, and once he came back, he reintegrated smoothly, and we just took off from there. 

“We have the likes of Linzell who is one of the leaders on our team, and he did extremely well throughout the tournament. You have Sydney Didier, young up-and-coming guy, and our captain as well, Clayton Williams, who galvanised the team together, always made sure everyone was getting there to practice and on time.”

For the regular season, Kings point guard Kimani Charles ended with the most assists, most steals, and the regular season MVP. Williams tallied the most points, and Alcee the most rebounds to complete a clean sweep of the statistical awards for the men from Sulphur City.