Playing the host nation on their home court in the featured game last night proved to be too much for The Bahamas’ Under-17 Girls National Basketball Team to handle as they faltered under immense pressure.
Team Bahamas lost convincingly, falling by 40, 83-43, as the Centrobasket Under-17 Championships continued at the historic Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Puerto Ricans asserted their dominance early and often, racing out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looking back. They were clearly the superior team, dominating in almost every facet of the game, in the wire-to-wire win.
For the game, the Puerto Ricans held The Bahamas to a woeful 18.57 percent shooting (13-for-70), while going 28-for-71 from the field themselves for a 39.44 percent clip. From distance, The Bahamas was just 2-for-16. Puerto Rico put up 26 shots from behind the three-point arc and buried 10 of them.
The Bahamas trailed by double digits at the end of the first quarter, 17-7, and were down by 21 at the half, 40-19. They got no closer the rest of the way, trailing by as much as 42 in the second half.
“The girls came out nervous,” said Team Bahamas Head Coach Varel Clarke-Davis. “I thought after that first game, there wouldn’t be any jitters but apparently there was. We missed a lot of easy shots in the first half, and dug a hole for ourselves. We tried our best to fight back but the lead was too much. We’ll just have to go back to the drawing board and work on our defense because that was the big factor tonight.”
The Bahamas actually out-rebounded Puerto Rico, 59-53, but committed a whopping 22 turnovers in the game compared to just 13 for Puerto Rico, and had just six assists compared to 20 for Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico had 19 steals in the contest.
Puerto Rico doubled up The Bahamas in points from turnovers, 24-12, and had 26 fast-break points compared to just five for The Bahamas. Puerto Rico dominated in the paint as well, scoring 30 points down low compared to 14 for The Bahamas.
The Bahamas was led by Michelle Butler with 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting. She added eight rebounds and two assists. Denika Lightbourne had eight points and six rebounds and Rhema Collins contributed seven points, 10 rebounds and three steals but shot just 2-for-11 from the floor. Antonicia Moultrie, who led The Bahamas in scoring in their first game of the tournament, was held to just six on Tuesday night.
The starting backcourt, Moultrie and Karolyn Baptiste, shot a combined 1-for-23 from the floor for The Bahamas.
As for Puerto Rico, they got 19 points and six rebounds from starting forward Nangely Garcia. Starting point guard Jullie Ruiz added 18 points, seven steals, four rebounds and four assists. Two other players scored in double figures for them as Juneyla Figueroa had 12 points and Nina De Leon added 11.
The loss drops The Bahamas to a 1-1 win/loss record, but they are still very much alive for a semifinal spot and a shot at a medal. They defeated El Salvador, 79-59, on Sunday. The top three teams from the tournament will qualify for the 2020 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Americas Under-18 Championships, and The Bahamas is still very much in contention.
They will play Guatemala in a pivotal game today, starting at 3:15 p.m., at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum. The winner of that game will have the inside track of making the tournament semifinals.
“Our job is to come out tomorrow and beat the competition,” said Clarke-Davis last night. “We will have to make some adjustments and hopefully we will get the win and be in a good position for the crossover playoffs and have a good chance to make it to the medal round.”
The Bahamas is in Group B with El Salvador, Guatemala and host nation Puerto Rico. Mexico, Barbados, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic are in Group A.
The tournament semifinals are set for Wednesday and the medal round will be held on Thursday.