There was only standing room left as over 500 spectators packed the New Providence Ballroom at the Baha Mar Resort Convention Center on Saturday night, and saw a physical game as the University of Memphis Tigers shot down the Bahamas’ Senior Men’s National Basketball Team, 87-77. The game was a part of the Bahamas Basketball Federation’s (BBF) Summer of Thunder exhibition series.
Amid a few scuffles, the game was intense and competitive, but the Tigers took control in the fourth quarter and held on to win.
D’Shon Taylor and Jaron Cornish scored 20 points each for Team Bahamas, tying for game-high honors. Cornish had five made three-pointers and Taylor finished with 10 rebounds to complete a double-double.
Tyler Harris had a team-high 19 points in the win for the Tigers. He had a lot of help from Lester Quinones who dropped in 14 of his 17 points in the first half.
After the Tigers went on an 8-0 scoring run to start the game, The Bahamas responded by going on a 17-1 run in the next three minutes to go up 17-9. That run included five three-pointers from Team Bahamas.
Chris DeMarco, head coach for Team Bahamas, said: “We were right where we needed to be. We didn’t rebound well enough and we left three point shooters open too much. Some of that was lack of preparation in terms of lack of practicing together. They got the ball and posted up and we doubled, then they kicked it out for a wide open three. We have a lot of new guys in here today but they played their butts off and competed. I am very proud of them.”
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, a four-time all-star guard in the National Basketball Association (NBA), and current Tigers head coach, said this was what he wanted to see from his players.
“I wanted to see what would happen in this game. We got up 8-0 in this game. The guys got a little complacent. They caught fire and pushed our lead and we could have folded. That is what I wanted to see from the guys – they dug deep and got a few stops in a row and got back into the game and put out a pretty good game,” Hardaway said. “We knew what was going to happen. Everything that I saw was what I expected. I figured that the national team would be really good. They were physical, well-organized, well-coached and they had some really good players.”
The Bahamas’ national squad was up 24-16 heading into second quarter.
In the second quarter, the game got very physical as the referees had to stop the zealous players from getting involved in a scuffle. Technical fouls were given out.
“I have never seen any of our players back down and it is just a pleasure to coach. It is unbelievable. I thought we were the more physical team. We had some bad bounces and sometimes we were tired and didn’t fight but I thought that overall we hit first and we were more physical,” DeMarco said.
The game was tied at 39 with just over three minutes remaining before halftime. The Tigers went on a 9-2 scoring run to take a 48-42 lead heading into the half.
This game was a test for both teams. For Team Bahamas, this was their third exhibition game in four days under DeMarco, having only practiced twice before playing the first game.
“I liked our chemistry. I liked the way how the bench was into it – even those guys who did not play. That is a big part going forward – buy in together. We really need to get good with the details. Going forward, we know we have the talent, we know who we like and it is going to be about preparation and practice, and that commitment from the players and the staff going forward,” DeMarco said.
The Tigers had two blowout wins before playing Team Bahamas. They won their previous two games by an average of 53 points.
“Obviously, I didn’t know what the other two games were going to be about – they were blowouts. We knew that this game would be big but what we got out of this game was what we wanted. We got the adversity at some parts of the game. We got guys who needed to make shots – timely shots. We got guys who we needed to make stops – consecutive stops. We saw a group that did that and the guys who were playing the minutes out there together were fighting and battling,” Hardaway said.
It was still a close game at the end of the third quarter as the Tigers led 67-62 heading into the fourth. Taylor said that Team Bahamas did well under DeMarco and they need to continue to work on a few things.
“We got a new coach. We have some new fellas who got to play today and they got to showcase their talents. I feel like once we clean up our transition defense and one and two plays that we did not execute well but as long as we keep practicing and we keep going along with the game plan, we’ll be good,” Taylor said.
The Tigers kept The Bahamas at bay in the fourth quarter as they managed to get some key stops. They opened the fourth quarter on a quick 5-0 run after a Damion Baugh free throw; they increased the lead to 74-62 with 7:48 remaining in the game.
Quinones hit a three-pointer with 4:29 left to put the Tigers up 79-67. Team Bahamas was able to cut the lead down to eight but was unable to get key stops. The game ended 87-77 in favor of the Tigers.
The game saw five lead changes and seven ties. The Bahamas shot well from three-point territory, connecting on 16 three pointers, and the visitors had 11.
The Tigers won the battle on the glass, grabbing 51 rebounds. The Bahamas pulled down 34 boards.
Hardaway was impressed with Team Bahamas’ play.
“I like the team a lot. I think they had a couple injuries but the team that was out there was very strong, tough, they shoot it, penetrate and kick, rebound good as well. They are a really good team. I don’t know how long they have been together but they look like they have been together for a while. They are really strong,” Hardaway said.
When asked about their chances if Bahamian NBA players Chavano “Buddy” Hield and DeAndre Ayton had played, Hardaway said: “I don’t even want to think about that, but to add DeAndre Ayton and Buddy Hield to that team, those two guys alone are just fantastic. That would have been a huge task for us to beat a team with DeAndre Ayton and Buddy Hield.”
Hield was on the bench in street clothes but was visibly active, talking to his national team teammates on a regular basis, cheering them on and in the huddle during timeouts.
Team Bahamas has been drawn into Group D of the 2021 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) AmeriCup Qualifiers with the United States of America, Puerto Rico and Mexico, and will play home and away games against those three nations starting in February of 2020.
DeMarco said there will be a training camp around February 2020 and they will be ready to go. He added that he and his staff will have to figure out who will be able to play and who they want there. Also, the coaching staff has to determine who they have available, to keep moving in the system and keep getting players comfortable.
The Tigers were also in action yesterday, taking on Raw Elite Talent at the Baha Mar Resort in their final game of their Bahamas Tour. They picked up a lopsided 107-77 victory.
In the final match-up in this year’s Summer of Thunder’s men’s category, the Mega Bemax evened the score against Texas Tech University Red Raiders. They won 76-73 after falling to the Red Raiders 94-92 last Thursday night.
The final game in the Summer of Thunder, on the ladies side, will be the Bahamas All-Star Ladies taking on York University. That game will be played on Monday August 26, at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium, starting at 7 p.m.