Tuesday, Jun 2, 2020
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Team Bahamas to play for fifth at Centrobasket

Following a crushing loss to Guatemala and a win over Barbados, The Bahamas will play for fifth at the Centrobasket Under-17 Girls Championships that moved into the playoff round at the historic Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, yesterday.

Team Bahamas on Tuesday was on the cusp of advancing to the tournament semifinals, but faltered in the waning seconds to Guatemala. They came back on Wednesday, The Bahamas’ Independence Day, and clobbered Barbados in a fifth to eighth classification contest.

Against Guatemala, The Bahamas was just eight seconds away from victory. However, Guatemala starting center Mariana Escobar buried two free shots to give her team a one-point lead, 65-64. Team Bahamas shooting guard Karolyn Baptiste missed a jump shot as time expired, and the Guatemalans celebrated a hard-earned victory. Team Bahamas bounced back on Wednesday though, soundly defeating Barbados, 83-41.

“We executed on defense and that created offense,” said Baptiste about their game against Barbados on Tuesday. “We moved the ball around and competed as a team. God has us, so we just stuck to the process and did what we had to do. We just have to continue to put God first, play with passion and believe in each other.”

They will play in the fifth-sixth place game today.

With the loss against Guatemala, The Bahamas fell out of contention for the semifinals, and as a result, failed to qualify for the 2020 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Americas Under-18 Championships. Only the top three teams from the tournament will qualify.

Michelle Butler paced Team Bahamas with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three assists against Guatemala. Rhema Collins also had a double-double for The Bahamas, dropping in 13 points and 13 rebounds. She had an all-around game for The Bahamas as she added six blocks and five steals.

Point guard Denika Lightbourne was the only other player in double figures for The Bahamas. She scored 11 points and added three rebounds and three steals. Baptiste and Antonicia Moultrie were the next two highest scored for The Bahamas with eight points apiece.

Starting shooting guard Natalie Larrañaga had a huge game for Guatemala with a game-high 27 points on 10-for-18 shooting from the field. She added seven steals, six rebounds and three assists. Point guard Elisa Martinez was the only other player in double figures for Guatemala, with 18. She added seven rebounds, five steals and four assists.

The game was close throughout as no team led by more than seven points. The Bahamas jumped out to a 15-12 lead after the first quarter, and was ahead by just one, 27-26, at the half.

Guatemala gained control in the third quarter. They went on a quick 7-0 scoring run to start the second half, taking a 33-27 lead, less than two minutes into the third quarter. The Bahamas stayed in contention, getting as close as two points, 39-37, on a three-point shot from Baptiste with 2:30 remaining, but Guatemala scored five of the final seven points in the quarter to give themselves a little bit of a cushion going into the fourth and final quarter.

Behind Butler, Lightbourne and Moultrie, The Bahamas battled back at the start of the fourth quarter. They scored the first seven points of the fourth to retake the lead, 46-44. The game went back and forth from that point onward.

Guatemala center Elizabeth Camacho hit a jump shot off an assist from Escobar to break a tie and give them a two-point lead, 63-61, with 32 seconds remaining. Collins responded with a shot and foul in the lane for The Bahamas. She buried the free shot to complete the three-point play, giving The Bahamas a 64-63 lead, with just 17 seconds remaining. Escobar’s two free shots with eight seconds left put Guatemala back on top, then Baptiste missed a shot at the buzzer for The Bahamas.

On The Bahamas’ Independence Day, July 10, The Bahamas retaliated against Barbados. They got out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Team Bahamas led 20-7 after one, and was up 34-11 at the half. They continued to pour it on in the third quarter, taking a 61-19 lead at the end of three, and went on to win easily, 83-41.

“After the game yesterday (loss against Guatemala), I told them that it’s not the end of the world and they could bounce back from this,” said Head Coach Varel Clarke-Davis. “Although we didn’t make it to the medal round, all is not lost. I keep preaching to them to just play basketball – keep it simple and stick to the fundamentals. I’m happy that we got this win. We didn’t play defense yesterday, but we played defense today. Now, they’re very excited. Now, they could come out and play tomorrow (today) and secure the fifth spot. We said it’s our independence, and we’re going to give the Bahamian people something to be proud of. They came out and they really played hard and there was togetherness. We sang the national anthem with pride and this one was for the Bahamian people.”

Collins paced The Bahamas with 17 points and 10 rebounds against Barbados. Laverne Armbrister came off the bench to score 10 to go along with four rebounds and four steals, and Butler and Erin Arianna Williams added eight apiece.

Only one player scored in double figures for Barbados. Starting center Rebecca Simpson played all 40 minutes and led them in scoring with 11. She added six rebounds and three steals. Small forward Jada Smith had nine points and nine rebounds but eight turnovers, and Ahriann Fields contributed nine points, two rebounds and two steals.

“Today, we were more patient and did more on defense, and executed all of our plays,” said Team Bahamas shooting guard Danae Malcolm, who had seven points, five assists and three rebounds against Barbados. “Everyone was just patient on offense today and we got the ball around to one another. We played more as a team and had more chemistry. We were talking about pride a lot in the locker room and representing the country well. We’re excited and very happy that we got the win today. It means a lot to us.”

The Bahamas dominated in every facet of the game in the lopsided win. They will now move on to play Costa Rica in the fifth-sixth place game that is set for today at 3:15 p.m. at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan.

The Bahamas finished with a 1-2 win-loss record in round-robin play in the tournament, defeating El Salvador, falling badly to host country Puerto Rico and then losing by one point to Guatemala. So far in classification, they defeated Barbados convincingly. The tournament wraps up with the gold medal match tonight in San Juan.

Sports Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting
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