For the first time in 11 years, The Bahamas has qualified for the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Americas Under-18 (U18) Championships – just one step away from the junior world championships.
They got the job done with a thrilling 85-83 win over the Dominican Republic (DR) for the bronze medal at the 2019 Centrobasket Under-17 (U17) Boys Championships that wrapped up on Sunday at the historic Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Romad Dean, who was huge for The Bahamas all tournament, put a statement mark on the game with a huge put-back dunk off a missed lay-up attempt by Deyton Albury with six seconds remaining, breaking an 83-83 tie. Jean Montero misfired on a three-point shot in the waning seconds, and Team Bahamas celebrated a hard-earned win.
“I’m very happy to see these guys do what they did today,” said Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) President Mario Bowleg. “Congratulations to Coach Quinton Hall and his staff for a great job. I gave them the mandate that it’s been too long and it’s time for us to get back to FIBA Americas, and they accomplished that. I just give God thanks and praise that they were able to get the job done. Players like Deyton Albury, Romad Dean, Tyler Pinder and Malik Joseph were consistent in leading this team. We are grateful, and as the president, with this being the first team to advance to this level under my presidency, I’m grateful.”
Albury was huge for Team Bahamas as he was for the entire tournament. He played all 40 minutes and led the team in scoring with 28 points on 12-for-24 shooting. He added six assists, four rebounds and four steals. Dean had a huge double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Pinder and Joseph dropped in 12 apiece. Pinder was lethal from downtown, going 4-for-8 – half of The Bahamas’ eight three-point shots. Albury and Dean recently took part in the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Basketball Without Borders Camp as elite high school basketball players in The Bahamas.
“We just had to keep our composure,” said Albury. “Our goal was to come here and qualify so I’m happy that we were able to do that.”
Montero led the Dominican Republic with a game-high 29 points. He shot 10-for-23 from the floor, including 4-for-10 from three-point land. Koby Brea had 14 points and five rebounds, and Sdenry Gonzales contributed 11 points.
“This shows what we want to do. We’re building on the accomplishments of the previous administration and just getting better,” said Bowleg. “I’m just happy that we were able to come out victorious and move on to the next level. I’m looking forward to the 2020 FIBA Americas (under-18) and for us to continue to do better. This is a giant step for basketball in The Bahamas.”
The game was close throughout as the lead changed hands 15 times and no team led by double digits. The Dominican Republic led 19-18 after the first quarter, and The Bahamas went ahead, 41-40, at the half. Albury, Dean and Joseph combined for 23 of The Bahamas’ 25 points in the third quarter, and they took a 66-59 lead into the final period.
The Bahamas went ahead by nine early in the fourth but the Dominican Republic kept battling back. They went on an 8-0 run midway through the third to cut the lead to 73-72. The Dominican Republic didn’t pull ahead, but stayed within three the rest of the way.
They got a steal and tied the game at 83 on a lay-up from Montero with 15 seconds remaining, setting the stage for Dean to come through with the game-winning dunk for The Bahamas.
“This was not easy. When something like this happens, you have to give credit to everyone,” said Team Bahamas Head Coach Quinton “Three Ounce” Hall. “I knew it would have taken four quarters to beat that team, and we did it. In the last seconds, I knew it wasn’t over yet because I’ve seen some crazy things in this sport, but once you put faith in God and believe, anything is possible.”
The Bahamas had 17 turnovers in the game compared to just 12 for the Dominican Republic, but out-rebounded them, 51-42, and shot a better percentage from the floor – 42.67 percent (32-for-75) to 40.85 (29-for-71).
In the semifinals on Saturday, The Bahamas fell to Mexico, 64-48. They won their final pool game over the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) on Friday, 89-76, to finish pool play with a 2-1 win/loss record. They lost to the host nation, Puerto Rico, in their first game of the tournament last Wednesday, 75-70, and then won emphatically over El Salvador on Thursday, 86-57.
The top three nations from the tournament all advance to the 2020 FIBA Americas U18 Championships. This is just the second time that The Bahamas has advanced to the FIBA Americas U18 Championships, and the first time since 2008.