Defending champion Horizon and Waves share league-topping honours with five wins each as the preliminary round of the Elite 1 Caribbean Basketball Winter League concluded on Wednesday at the National Arena in Kingston.

Waves edged Storm 91-87 while Horizon defeated Rivers 105-86 in the second match of the day.

Waves led 19-17 after the first quarter and 42-36 at the half-way mark. Waves intensified their defensive play in the third quarter to widen the lead to nine points 63-54 at the end of the third. However, Storm stormed back in the fourth outscoring Waves 33-28 after the latter had opened a 16-point lead at the start of the closing stanza.

The rally excited the crowd but was not enough to overcome the deficit in the end.

Lushane Wilson led the scoring with 29 points for Waves. He got support from Nathan Akade’s 16 points and Tyran Walker’s 15. Jayrn Johnson had 24 points and Brandon Armstrong 20 for Storm. Crowd favourite Walker, who had several blocks in the game, revealed afterwards that he was intent on pulling out all the stops for the victory.

"(I was) trying to go out and get a win, doing anything it takes to get a win, be scrappy defensively, just trying to make a statement going into the play-offs,” he said.

“It’s a tough team, the Storm. They are going be a problem in the play-offs, if we end up playing them.”

Storm's assistant coach Simon Brown was naturally disappointed at the defeat.

I’ll be dead honest; I personally believe that the only reason that we lost tonight is because shots that we normally score we didn't start hitting them till the fourth quarter. Simple as that,” he said. "We have to get back to a mental game. Start learning to settle and to be calm in moments like this so that we can step up. Those turnovers came out of frustration rather than out of poor play."

 Coach Brown promised that despite the loss, his team still have their eyes on the top prize.

"What you can expect is the championship,” he said.

“We going all the way to the top. We don't care if it’s the first, second or fourth-place team, whoever we get in front of us our plan is to beat them, play smarter basketball and I think we can take it all."

In the second match of the night Horizon and Rivers were locked on 43 points apiece at the half-way mark. Rivers led by one after the quarter 21-20 but then the Horizon settled down and never looked back.

They outscored Rivers 30-16 to close the third quarter 73-59 and while Rivers tried to stage a comeback in the final quarter ended up losing 105-86.

Bobby Gray led the scoring for Horizon with 35 points while the Rivers' Anthony Ottley had a game-high 38 points.

“It was great. It was a team effort, team win, that's what it takes to bounce back after a loss,” said Gray, whose team lost to Waves in their previous match. You got to play together and believe in yourselves.”

The next set of matches are scheduled for Friday (January 27) beginning at 6:00 pm when the second and third place teams battle for a place in the final and in the other match, the top team in the league will take on the fourth place team for the final spot.

The Waves overpowered defending champion Horizon to snap their winning streak and hand them their first loss of the Elite 1 Caribbean Basketball Winter League last Saturday at the National Arena while the Storm defeated the Rivers, who is yet to record a win in the league. 

Horizon started out slowly while taking three minutes to score its first point and ending the quarter 18 to Waves' 26. Waves outscored them in the second quarter as well and lead by as many as 23 to close the quarter at 34-57. Horizon picked up the scoring in the third quarter but was still behind (60-73) at the end. Horizon continued to make inroads in the fourth quarter but jut could not get the win. The match went to the Waves 88-83 who won by just five points. The Waves's Cameron Burhannon (37 points) was on fire throughout the game while Bobby Gray (22 points), was the top scorer for Horizon. 

Waves and Horizon now have four wins each after playing five matches while defeating each other once in the league so far. The will next meet in the play-off to see who the finalists will be. 

Waves' coach Rohan Robinson was pleased with the win, "well it was a good one (match). We watched the game (the first game and saw the mistakes). We went back to the drawing board and said that the guys have to live up to their responsibility and live up to role and as a result of that we gained a 26-point lead, then we had some issues with persons playing too much minutes. I allowed the bench to give them as much rest as possible but I am just disappointed a bit that when the bench came in they couldn't hold the lead. I am going to hold my leaders accountable for how we finished the game because we should not be in that position again." He made special mention of 7-footer Tyran Walker who was injured early in the league, for having a very good game. 

Horizon's coach Cleon Morgan accepted the loss but thinks that its good for the team at this stage of the competition. "We have lost tonight but we have a four-game win streak which was pretty good for us. I think there are two matches to go. Losing at this point is good for the team as we can go back to the drawing board, look at our mistakes tonight and work on that so we can come back again play how we are used to playing." He was happy to reduce the Waves' win margin to just five after being down by 26 in the third quarter. 

The second match of the night was eagerly awaited as everyone in the Arena willed the Rivers to get their first win.  They came close to doing so several times but faltered by the way after being in good positions with healthy leads but it was another night of disappointment for them. The Storm put on a show while winning every quarter 21-15, 58-38, 78-62 and 102-79 to take the match by 23 points.  The top scorers in the match were - Storm's Brandon "Bdot" Armstrong with 23 points and Rivers' Anthony Ottley 27 points. 

Armstrong credited his team for the win "it was great overall match.  It was the first time we had a full squad, no injuries so I knew that we were going to come out playing well, playing well defensively, and moving the ball. This is our best complete game from starting number to the fourteenth person on the bench. I must give credit to my teammates." 

The next set of matches are scheduled for Wednesday (January 25) when four-time winner Waves will take on the Storm (2 wins) at the National Arena at 6:00 pm. The 8:00pm match-up will see the defending champion Horizon taking on Rivers who is still seeking their first win.

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