Razorbacks perfect at inaugural Bahamas Hoopfest Classic

The Associated Press’ 25th-ranked team the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, picked up its second win of the 1st annual Bahamas Hoopfest Women’s College Basketball Classic, when they held off the University of Wisconsin Badgers 68-64 on Saturday, November 30 at the New Providence Ballroom at Bah Mar resort.

The Razorbacks’ Chelsea Dungee led the way with a game-high 27 points and six rebounds in the victory.

“I just took what they gave me. If they come up, I go to the basket. I missed a couple shots but that happens sometimes and I just stay consistent and confident with my shot,” Dungee said.

They were coming off a convincing 71-59 victory over Fordham University on Friday night. Dungee led all scorers with 24 points.

With those two wins they are now winner of seven games and only have one loss.

“We got off to a really slow start. They jumped on us 10-0. Our kids hung around and battled. It comes down to a couple of big plays, always magnified at the end but those plays were big,” said Mike Neighbors, head coach of the Razorbacks.

Badgers’ forward Abby Laszewski led the way for her team with a double-double scoring a team high 16 points and a game high 10 rebounds.

In the game on Saturday night, the Badgers got out to an early 10-0 start in the first quarter and looked like they were going to take the win. They held a 23-15 lead

In the first quarter, the Badgers shot 50 percent from the field as they connected on eight of their 16 attempts from the field.

It was a horrible first quarter shooting for the Razorbacks as they shot 31 percent from the field and went 5-for-16. They were blank from three-point territory in six tries.

The Razorbacks tried to come close to the Badgers but the lead extended by as much as 10 when the Badgers’ Kendra Van Leeuwen hit a three-pointer with 5:07 remaining in the second quarter to put her team up 20-30. She finished with 13 points.

With 46 seconds remaining in that quarter, Amber Ramirez connected on a three-pointer to cap a 7-1 run. The Badgers led 31-29.

The scoreline remained the same as the game went into intermission as the Razorbacks outscored the Badgers 14-8 in that period.

The Badgers controlled the third quarter and took a 48-42 lead into the fourth quarter. They shot 43 percent in that quarter from the field.

That six-point lead was not enough as the Razorbacks’ Alexis Tolefree connected on a three-pointer to give her team their first lead of the game, 56-54.

That three-pointer was one of five three-pointers the Razorbacks connected on in that quarter. They only missed one shot from beyond the arc.

With under 22 seconds left in the game, Tolefree made three key free-throws as they hung on to win it 68-62.

She finished the game with 12 points and three rebounds.

“We have a lot of experience on our team. We got a lot of players back. This is the matchup we wanted. We played them last year at another tournament and we only won by one point. They wanted revenge and we wanted to prove that we can beat them consistently,” Dungee said.

She also enjoyed her time in The Bahamas. On Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28, the Razorbacks did some outreach in preparing care packages for the Knowles Foundation for the hurricane relief victims. It was an eye-opening experience for her, she said.

Neighbors said the experience was life-changing: “I had no idea how much stuff was sent down here and what was needed. For us to give two hours of our time, getting that life experience, it was on our Thanksgiving Day. It showed how much we are thankful for. These were people who lost everything in their lives and we are packing up water, rice, clothes and diapers. Most of our kids come from privilege and it was a great life-learning experience.”

After the game the young local girls basketball players and spectators gravitated toward the players, especially Dungee for a selfie or an autograph.

The redshirt junior said: “I am thankful that I was put on a platform to be able to show girls how to be confident and believe in yourself. To know that females can play different sports, it’s fun to be on that platform and influence kids at that age.”

She is ready to use the two games as momentum for the rest of the season.

The Razorbacks are set to return home after three straight road contests, as they will host Kansas State in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on December 7 at 2 p.m.

The Badgers will be headed to Atlanta, Georgia for their next game against Georgia Tech for the B1G/ACC Challenge on Thursday December 5 at 6 p.m.

The other two teams that participated in the Classic were Lehigh University and Ball State University.

Bahamian basketball player Walteia Rolle was honored at halftime on Saturday night. Rolle is the first Bahamian to be drafted into the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

The two organizers for the Classic were Dr. Simeon Hinsey and Marvin Henfield.

Baha Mar resort, the Ministry of Tourism and the Bahamas Basketball Federation were huge supporters of the event.

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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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