Story by Matt Potak
The six time ABA National Champion Jacksonville Giants celebrated their Championship Night with another thrilling night of basketball. The Giants bounced the 5th ranked Baltimore Hawks, 122-101, in front of a sellout crowd at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. The game featured longtime Sports Reporter Brent Martineau as the teams honorary captain and former Jacksonville Jaguars player Austen Lane as the 13th man. Lane contributed to the win with four points and six rebounds.
“It was a great win,” said Giants head coach Jerry Williams, who has won three ABA Championships in three seasons as the teams head coach. “I am very proud of the guys. We played great basketball tonight.”
Before the game the Giants held a ring ceremony to celebrate the teams 2018-19 ABA National Championship season. The pre-game ceremony showcased Giants’ players receiving their championship rings from team Owner Ron Sholes. The Giants 6th ABA National Championship banner was raised in the arena. The sellout crowd witnessed another history making moment.
“We are very appreciative of our players, support staff, fans, sponsors and community partners,” said Sholes.
Sholes spoke about the team’s 2018-19 seasons success and handed out each ring to all the players and support staff involved in making last year a success. Vice President Pam Masters and Coach Williams helped assist with the ceremony. Mascot, Mr. Biggs, even got a Giant sized ring of his own.
The game showcased an epic battle between two of the ABA’s most elite teams. Baltimore came in ranked 5th in the recent power rankings with Jacksonville ranked 1st. Both teams came out swinging early on. Baltimore and Jacksonville went back and forth in the first quarter with a solid effort. The Giants held a nine point lead to end the first quarter, 29-20.
Jacksonville began to put away Baltimore in the second and third quarter with strong play from veteran Jermaine Bell. Bell led the Giants with a team high 24 points on the night. Bell also added a double-double with 13 rebounds. The longtime Jacksonville veteran and former ABA MVP was all over the court, blocking three shots and landing two long range three pointers.
Every active player on the Giants roster scored in the game. Bernard Nugent (18 points), Miguel Paul (17 points), and Maurice Mickens(13 points) rounded out the leading scorers for Jacksonville. Jacksonville was 11 for 29 from three point range and went 39 for 92 from the field.
The crowd enjoyed the strong outside shooting but also loved the powerful slam dunks. Elijah “Superman” Smith, Bell, Aaron Bowen, and Bernard Nugent all contributed with thunderous slam dunks. Nugent had an impressive dunk after he stole the ball on a Baltimore inbound pass.
Throughout the second half Jacksonville continued to push the pace and extend the lead. Coach Williams used multiple personnel groupings to keep the Hawks off guard. Defensively, Calvin Warner, Nugent, and Bowen continued to press Baltimore. The constant defensive pressure forced multiple Hawk miscues. Warner, whose played professional basketball oversees, had 10 points and eight rebounds on the night. Bowen, a former Georgetown standout, was physical on the inside. Former Florida State College of Jacksonville standout Travis McConico also assisted.
Baileys Gym Giants Game Box vs Baltimore
Star of the game:
Jermaine Bell was unstoppable in the win. Bell had a double-double with 24 points and 13 rebounds. The veteran did it all from multiple slam dunks to impressive long range three pointers.
Jacksonville outscored Baltimore 36-29 in the second quarter, giving the Giants a double digit halftime lead. The deficit was too much for Baltimore to climb out of.
Bell, Nugent, and Bowen were all over the court. Bell had a team high three blocks with Nugent adding four steals.
Jacksonville goes on a road trip to Chicago starting on Thursday night. The Giants will take on the ChiTown Bulldogs.
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