Rockets wins inaugural ‘Nassau Championship’

The University of Toledo Rockets held off the Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers, 79-70, to win the inaugural Baha Mar Hoops ‘Nassau Championship’ on Wednesday night inside the Baha Mar Convention Center at Baha Mar.

Tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) Ryan Rollins scored a game-high 35 points to pace the Rockets. He finished 12-for-20 from the field and went 4-for-5 from the three-point range. The sophomore guard also had four rebounds and three of his team’s seven steals. Setrick Milner Jr. and JT Shumate added 15 and 10 points, respectively.

“We have a very resilient group and tonight’s (Wednesday) victory really showed that,” Rockets Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “A game like this will show us that we can come back when we have a really bad start. We took a deep breath, didn’t get rattled, and we stayed positive and together. We wanted to simulate what the MAC (Mid-American Conference) Tournament would be like, and that’s what playing this tournament the last three days did for us.”

Essam Mostafa led the way for the Chanticleers with 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting from the field. He also had nine rebounds. Rudi Williams chipped in with 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting on the night.

It was a fast start for the Chanticleers as they quickly jumped out to a 7-0 lead at the 18:08 mark of the first half, capping the run on a converted Mostafa and-one play. The Rockets stopped the run but Mostafa helped his team take the lead to double digits at the 15:59 mark with another converted and-one play. He put his team up 12-2 at that point.

It was all Chanticleers for the next six minutes as they went up by 19 points, leading 26-7. It was their biggest lead of the game.

However, back-to-back made three-pointers by Rollins and Millner helped the Rockets trim that lead to seven points – 29-22 with 5:08 left in the first half. The lead went back up to 10, 32-22, before the Rockets ended the quarter on a 12-2 run to go into half tied at 34 points.

Coming out of the intermission, the Rockets went on a 6-0 run to take control of the game at the 17:50 mark of the second half.

The game got very competitive heading down the stretch. With the game tied at 63 with 5:38 left in the game, Rollins showed why he was MVP as he went on his own 6-0 scoring run to put his team up 69-63 with 3:11 remaining.

“I was feeling good tonight,” Rollins said. “I was getting to my spots and hitting my shots. We were persistent when we fell behind and kept fighting. We knew when we got the momentum back that we had a really good chance at winning.”

Down the stretch, the Rockets went on to lead by as much as 13 points, ending the game on a 10-6 run.

The Rockets held a 45-36 advantage in the final half. After shooting just 32 percent from the field in the first half, they turned it up, shooting a blistering 59.3 percent from the field in the second half. They took more shots from inside the arc and went 14-for-16.

On hand to present the winning trophy was Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg. He said that it is good to have these competitions here.

“This is what you want to see. The level of competition playing among themselves is just as keen as the competition you will see anywhere in the world. I understand there are over 300 room nights which is what we are looking for in sports tourism. Bahamians have seen the level of play that they are exposed to and all the young athletes you see around here have been given an opportunity to be exposed to high level talent. They now know what they need in order to prepare themselves to play at that level,” Bowleg said.

Bahamian player for the Chanticleers Ahmard Harvey, a 6’7” junior forward from Freeport, Grand Bahama, said: “I am happy and grateful. I am grateful to be here and see my family because I haven’t seen them in a year and a half. It brought tears to my eyes. I think it is a great experience because we go off and we be gone for more than three or four years so they don’t see us. I think it’s really good to see Bahamians come down playing and show what their families what they have been working on.”

Harvey played just a minute in the game and pickled up two fouls.

The all-tournament team was Jalen Cook (Tulane), Sheldon Edwards (Valparaiso), Mostafa, Millner and Rollins.

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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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