Sports

Jones, BiH bow out of EuroBasket Women 2021

Bahamian professional women’s basketball player Jonquel “JJ” Jones had 19 points and 16 rebounds for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) against France yesterday … in the first half.

She was completely dominant, finishing with 29 points and 24 rebounds – both game-highs, but it wasn’t enough as France proved to be too tough, winning 80-67 to move on to the 2021 European Women Basketball Championship (EuroBasket Women 2021) semifinals.

France took advantage of a raucous home crowd as the quarterfinal game was played at the Rhénus Sport in Strasbourg, France, but the semifinals and final will be at the Pavelló Municipal Font de Sant Lluís in Valencia, Spain, set for this coming weekend.

As for Jones, she could now return to the United States to help her WNBA team, the Connecticut Sun, who was just 1-3 in her absence. The Sun still sport a 9-5 win/loss record, leading the Eastern Conference and good enough for third overall in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

On Wednesday, Jones and BiH were simply outclassed by a more experienced French team, and crashed out of the EuroBasket Women 2021 after advancing as far as they have ever been. They were eliminated in preliminary round competition in 1997, and again in 1999, and hadn’t qualified since.

Obtaining the services of Jones as a naturalized citizen in 2018, the BiH women’s national program took off. They won five out of six games in qualification EuroBasket Women 2021, and turned back a number of higher ranked teams once the continental championship got underway last week.

Jones, 27, was a one-woman wrecking crew for BiH in their quarterfinal game against France, particularly in the first half, but she got little support. She did everything she could to keep her squad in contention, but a more balanced French team eventually wore them down.

The game was close early on as BiH trailed just 18-16 after the first quarter. Jones scored the first basket of the game for them and finished with eight points in total in the first quarter. She added 11 more points in the second quarter, but BiH still trailed, 39-31 at the half.

Just 28 seconds into the second half, France opened up a double digit lead. BiH got within five points late in the third, but France quickly opened the lead to double digits again, and they coasted the rest of the way. France led 63-47 at the end of three and BiH never got to within single digits again. France led by as much as 22 points in the fourth quarter.

Jones shot 10-for-22 from the field (45.45 percent) and 2-for-8 from three-point territory (25 percent). She was the only player in double figures for BiH. Sandrine Gruda and Marine Johannes scored 15 points apiece for France, and Endene Miyem added 14. Gabby Williams was their only other player in double figures with 12.

Jones leads the tournament in scoring and rebounds at 22.4 points and 16.4 rebounds per game. She shot 45.3 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from three-point territory through five games in the tournament. Jones had a double-double in every game she played.

She is second in player efficiency, 30.0 to Emma Meesseman’s 30.7 for Belgium and third in blocks at 1.6 per game to Anastasiya Verameyenka’s 2.0 for Belarus and Meesseman’s 1.7 for Belgium.

Jones and BiH will now have to wait and see if they fall among the top six in the tournament. The top six nations move on to qualifying tournaments for the 2022 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Women’s Basketball World Cup.

For the Sun in the WNBA, Jones is averaging 21.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game through 10 games this season, while shooting 56.8 percent from the floor and 48.9 percent from three-point range – both career highs and top five in the league in both. Her absence from that team is showing just how valuable she is as they dropped three out of four without her. Prior to leaving, Jones was having an MVP-caliber season for the Sun.

Jones is second in the league in scoring and leads the way in rebounding, putting up Most Valuable Player (MVP) numbers in her return to the league. She opted out of competing in 2020, due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

This season, the Sun trails the defending champions Seattle Storm (12-3) and the 2020 WNBA runner-up Las Vegas Aces (10-3) in the WNBA Standings. They play their next game on Sunday, hosting Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Jones is expected to be available to play in that game.

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Sheldon Longley

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.

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