Sports

The Bahamas advances to FIBA World Cup Qualifiers

Team erases 18-point fourth-quarter lead by Cuba; also beats Costa Rica

With one game left to play, The Bahamas’ senior men’s national basketball team found itself in a good position at the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Pre-Qualifiers. Going into last night’s game against El Salvador, they had already secured a spot in the qualifiers by winning their first two games of the tournament. In their first game, they came back from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Cuba, 89-88, on Friday, and then pummeled Costa Rica, 75-51, on Saturday – both at the Gimnasio Nacional José Adolfo Pineda in San Salvador, El Salvador.

The Bahamas is one of 16 national teams that will advance to compete in the qualifiers in November.

On Saturday night, Franco Miller led the way for The Bahamas with 11 points and six assists, leading a balanced scoring attack.

With that win against Costa Rica, The Bahamas sat at the top of Group A with a 2-0 win/loss record. They are in a group with Cuba, Costa Rica and host El Salvador. They played El Salvador last night but the score was unavailable up to press time.

The Bahamas checked in 11 players and all scored at least two points Saturday night. Garvin Clarke Jr. was the other Bahamian player to score in double digits, putting in 10 points.

The Bahamas started off the game with Willis Mackey Jr. putting the team up 2-0 on a jump shot. After a 4-4 tie, The Bahamas went on a mini 5-0, all by Miller, who plays for Florida Gulf Coast University. He made a layup and connected on a three point shot to put The Bahamas up 9-4. The Bahamas never trailed in this game.

At the end of the first quarter, The Bahamas took a comfortable 17-8 lead.

In the second quarter, The Bahamas continued to dominate. They took the lead up to double digits, taking a 20-8 lead on Grand Bahamian teenager Romad Dean’s three pointer at the 9:02 mark. Mychel Thompson caught a pass from Travis Munnings at the 3:46 mark and nailed another three pointer for The Bahamas, as they went up 34-14.

At the end of the first half, The Bahamas held Costa Rica to under 20 points, leading 42-17. At the beginning of the third quarter, The Bahamas went on a quick 5-0 run to take the lead to 30 points, 47-17. Costa Rica had no answer for the Bahamian squad as that quarter ended with the scoreboard reading 61-32 in favor of The Bahamas.

Although they were outscored by Costa Rica 19-14 in the fourth quarter, The Bahamas was victorious because of the dominant first half.

Team Bahamas had 12 made three pointers in the game compared to Costa Rica’s one three.

On Friday night, The Bahamas was handled for 38 minutes against a tough Cuban team but responded when they needed to. Coming into the fourth quarter, The Bahamas was down by 18 points, 76-58. With 1:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, head coach Chris DeMarco elected to go with Thompson, Munnings, Clarke, Miller and Kentwan Smith. Clarke, who wrapped up his freshman campaign for the University of Akron this year, hit a huge three pointer to close the gap to 88-83. Miller then made two free throws to bring The Bahamas to within three points, 88-85, with 59 seconds left in the game. Smith hit a free throw with 33 seconds remaining in the game to bring The Bahamas within a single point – 88-87. On the next defensive possession, The Bahamas forced a Cuba turnover, this coming with 15 seconds left in the game.

Miller got the ball by the three point arc with the game on the line, dribbled to the elbow before using a Euro-step to get the game-winning floater with seven seconds left on the game clock. He was fouled and got an and-one opportunity. Miller missed the free shot but his fellow Grand Bahamian Munnings got the offensive board and The Bahamas came away with the improbable win after being down 49-35 at the half, and by 18 entering the fourth.

The Bahamas was able to outscore Cuba 9-0 down the stretch and 31-11 in the fourth quarter.

Munnings led five Bahamian players in scoring with 18 points. He added a game-high four steals in this contest.

Cuba turned the ball over 18 times. The Bahamas scored 25 points off those turnovers and was very careful with the ball on their end as they had just seven turnovers.

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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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