Sports

Puerto Rico takes down The Bahamas

Team blows a nine-point lead in the final six minutes; outscored 15-0 the rest of the way

A series of turnovers and missed free shots down the stretch led to the unraveling of The Bahamas senior men’s national basketball team as they lost a crucial game against Puerto Rico, 91-85, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Monday.

Team Bahamas was clicking on all cylinders and in firm control through three and a half quarters but then the bottom fell out for them. They held a nine-point lead, 85-76, with 5:43 remaining, but then went ice cold the rest of the way and dropped a critical game in the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers. Puerto Rico outscored The Bahamas 15-0 in the final five and a half minutes of the game to record the impressive come-from-behind win.

It was a crippling blow for Team Bahamas as they were looking to put themselves on the brink of qualifying for the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup. Instead, they now find themselves in fourth place in the group, trailing the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The good news for The Bahamas is that the final window of the qualifiers, which is set for February 2021, is scheduled to be played in The Bahamas.

As for yesterday’s game, The Bahamas was in full control, taking an 85-76 lead on the strength of a 10-1 scoring run, finishing the run with a pull-up jump shot from D’Shon Taylor who was having a fantastic game up to that point. Puerto Rico kept battling. A couple free shots and a couple turnovers later, and they were right back in the game.

Another turnover led to a fadeaway jump shot from Jaysean Paige to bring Puerto Rico within two points, 85-83, with 2:40 remaining. The Puerto Rican point guard who was held to just two points in their opening loss to Mexico on Sunday, exploded for a side-high 19 against The Bahamas on Monday.

Paige hit another jumper to tie the game at 85 with 2:15 remaining, and then following another turnover for The Bahamas, Gilberto Clavell, a forward, hit two free shots to put Puerto Rico ahead. They didn’t ease up as Clavell hit a jump shot with 1:04 remaining and another one with 17 seconds left to complete the scoring.

It was a dreadful ending to the game for The Bahamas. In total, they had six turnovers, went 0-for-5 from the field, including four missed shots from three-point range, and was 0-for-4 from the charity stripe in the final 5:43 of the game. He also had seven of The Bahamas’ 20 turnovers in the game.

Taylor, a swingman, led The Bahamas with a game-high 25 points and added two rebounds and two assists but missed a three-point shot and all four of his free shot attempts in the final 5:43. He shot 63.64 percent from the floor (7-for-11) including knocking down six of his nine attempts from three-point land. Willis Mackey Jr., a forward, joined the team on Sunday and had 18 points for The Bahamas off the bench and added seven rebounds. Nashad Mackey, another forward, had a dozen points and three rebounds, and Kentwan Smith, who also joined the team on Sunday, finished with a double-double as he scored 10 points and pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. The Bahamian power forward added two assists and two steals.

“In the end, I think we just kind of forgot what we were doing at the beginning that was so successful for us,” said Willis Mackey Jr. at the press conference afterwards. “I believe that will be an easy adjustment for us in the next window – just run our sets and keep at it.”

Mackey said it’s always an honor to put on the jersey for The Bahamas, and is looking forward to being an integral part of the team when the third window of qualifying rolls around next year.

“Anytime you get selected to play, it’s a great feeling,” he said. “This is something that as kid you dream about doing and to have that opportunity is a joy. As a group, I believe that we all share the same feeling. We know what it means to people back home and we just try to represent The Bahamas as best as we can.”

Point guard Paige paced Puerto Rico with 19 points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals, Clavell had 18 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals, and shooting guard Emmanuel Andujar gave them three players in double figures with 16 points, and added five rebounds and four assists.

Puerto Rico shot 53.23 percent from the floor (33-for-62) compared to 45.16 (28-for-62) for The Bahamas. They were 7-for-17 from distance while the free-shooting Bahamian team tossed up twice as many three-point attempts, finishing 13-for-34. Both teams had 34 rebounds, but Puerto Rico shared the ball more as they dished out 22 assists compared to 15 for The Bahamas. The Bahamas had 20 turnovers compared to 16 for Puerto Rico.

It appeared that Team Bahamas had a great game plan and came ever so close to recording one of the country’s biggest upset wins in history, but just couldn’t close the door in the final five and a half minutes of play. Puerto Rico is ranked at number 16 in the FIBA World Rankings while The Bahamas is at number 58.

Puerto Rico jumped out to an early 6-0 lead in the first quarter, but The Bahamas battled back, tying the game at 12 on a three-point shot from Taylor. The Bahamas took its first lead of the game on a three-point shot from Godfrey Rolle III, going ahead 15-14 with 2:07 remaining in the opening quarter. The first quarter ended tied at 17.

Taylor buried his third three-point shot of the game to give The Bahamas a 26-20 lead with 7:28 remaining in the second quarter. The Bahamas went up by as much as seven before Puerto Rico battled back to even he score at 34. The Bahamas maintained control of the game and then closed the half on a strong note as Jaron Cornish hit his only bucket with a three-point shot of the game at the first-half buzzer. That gave The Bahamas a 47-41 cushion at the intermission. Cornish finished 1-for-6 from distance for the game, and was 1-for-8 overall.

Team Bahamas went ahead by nine points early in the third quarter, but on the strength of a 12-2 scoring run, Puerto Rico battled all the way back and surged ahead. The game went back and forth until The Bahamas regained control coming down to the end of the third quarter.

The Bahamas took a seven-point lead, 71-64, on a jump shot from Mychel Thompson, with 36 seconds remaining in the third, and ended the quarter ahead 71-67. Puerto Rico kept it close, eventually pulling even at 75 on a layup from Jonathan Rodriguez.

The Bahamas appeared to take control of the game, building a nine-point lead on a 10-1 scoring run which was highlighted by a pair of three-point shots and a pull-up jump shot from Taylor. However, they completely fell apart in the final 5:43 and blew a game in which they were in complete control midway through the fourth.

The Bahamas now has a 1-3 win/loss record through the first four games of the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers and are in fourth place in the group behind the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico. They were blasted, 99-59, by the United States of America on Sunday. Just the top three nations will advance to the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup Tournament.

The third and final window is set for February 2021 in The Bahamas. The Bahamas will play two home games against Puerto Rico and the USA in that window. The Head Coach of The Bahamas’ team is Golden State Warriors Assistant Coach Chris DeMarco.

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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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