Heartbreak for The Bahamas again

The Bahamas fails to qualify for 2022 FIBA AmeriCup; blows another lead to Puerto Rico

Back in November in the second window of the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers, The Bahamas lost 91-85 to Puerto Rico. In that game, The Bahamas went into the fourth quarter up 71-67, and Puerto went on to outscore them 24-14 in the fourth quarter to win the game.

Once again, The Bahamas’ senior men’s national basketball team was their worst enemy in the fourth quarter against Puerto Rico as they fell 102-97 in the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) AmeriCup qualifying event at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Saturday night.

With that loss, The Bahamas ended the group stage with a 1-5 win/loss record and failed to qualify for the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup. Advancing out of Group D are the United States of America (6-0), Puerto Rico (3-3) and Mexico (2-4). The Bahamas’ only win came against Mexico in the first window last year February.

Leading the way for The Bahamas on Saturday night was Mychel Thompson with 21 points, three rebounds and four assists. He got help from Travis Munnings who scored 14 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out nine assists. Also scoring in double digits for The Bahamas were David Nesbitt (13), Dominick Bridgewater (12), Kentwan Smith (10) and Tavario Miller (10).

Jose Juan “JJ” Barea led the host with a game-high 26 points, and added seven rebounds and eight assists. He scored 19 points in the second half.

Puerto Rico’s Isaac Sosa made a shot inside the arc with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter. The Bahamas led 71-68 at that point, and then went on an 8-2 scoring run to end the quarter. Miller scored The Bahamas’ final six points of the third to put them up 79-70 heading into the fourth quarter and seemingly give them control of the game.

Costly turnovers in the fourth quarter hurt The Bahamas enabling Puerto Rico to tie the game at 84 after a three-point shot from Gian Clavell.

Head Coach for The Bahamas Mario Bowleg said that they struggled against the 2-3 zone used by Puerto Rico in the fourth quarter.

“I think we struggled against the 2-3 zone even though we had put in an offense to combat that. I felt the guys moved away from that and that hurt us – the 2-3 zone really hurt us. I also thought, even when we decided to make a run or two, I thought we just had some poor calls by one particular official and that just killed us,” Bowleg stated.

Not usually one to call out the officiating, Bowleg seemed frustrated with the loss and just aired it out. Nesbitt shared the sentiments with his coach as it relates to them letting the game slip away.

“They switched to a zone, we got a little stagnant, started to turn the ball over and took a lot of bad shots. Some of our guys got in foul trouble. Credit to Puerto Rico, I don’t want to take anything away form them. We had the game in our hands. It is tough always being here. I feel like we always have the game in our hands and we just let it slip away at the end,” Nesbitt said.

In the final quarter, Puerto Rico outscored The Bahamas 32-18. This came after The Bahamas outscored Puerto Rico in the third quarter 31-18.

For the game, The Bahamas shot 54.2 percent from the field compared to Puerto Rico’s 48.7 percent. In rebounding, The Bahamas won the battle 35-32 including a 14-6 advantage on the offensive glass. Puerto Rico’s edge in transition points was the difference maker as they won that battle 31-12.

This game had 30 lead changes including 20 in the first half. There were no fans in the stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions.

If he is to take anything away from the loss, Bowleg said it is remaining focused and staying disciplined as to what it is they want to do against any defense. He said The Bahamas can compete with anyone in the Americas.

“We are confident,” Bowleg stated. “We believe that we can beat anyone in the Americas whether we have our ‘A’ team or our ‘B’ team or our ‘C’ team. We can compete with anyone like we did in our first game. In every window we have been able to compete. From this window it all shows that we just have to play 40 minutes of basketball. I thought we were the better team than Puerto Rico, taking nothing away from them. I felt that we have the size, the length, and the shooting ability to defeat them. We were on the way at the end of the third quarter. They went into a zone which we knew was coming – we were prepared for it but I just think that we didn’t stay disciplined.”

Although they lost, Bowleg was proud of how the team performed on both sides of the ball. He said that the team will grow from this and will be a team to reckon with in the Americas.

All is not lost for The Bahamas in terms of the road to the 2024 Summer Olympics. The team still has a chance to qualify. Bowleg said the bottom four teams from the four groups will likely play the best teams from the Caribbean, and the top two teams from that tournament will haver a chance to qualify for the Olympics. Bowleg feels that based on their play and mindset in the 2022 AmeriCup qualifiers, they can pull it off.

On Friday, The Bahamas opened this third and final window against the United States of America. They lost that game 93-77.

According to reports, The Bahamas gave a valiant effort in that contest. At the 6:22 mark in the second quarter, starting point guard Bridgewater made a jump shot that gave The Bahamas a 34-33 lead. However, the Americans went on 21-6 run to end that quarter. The score was 54-40 heading into the half. In the second half, Team Bahamas kept knocking on the door, but the Americans controlled the tempo of the game and came away with the victory.

Isaiah Thomas and James Nunnally paced the Americans with 19 points apiece.

Munnings led The Bahamas in scoring in that game with a game-high 22 points. Bridgewater and Nesbitt added 14 apiece.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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