Sports

The Nassau Guardian’s Team of the Year crowned

Senior men’s national basketball squad victorious with 29 points

For the second year in a row, the country’s senior men’s national basketball squad has emerged as the Nassau Guardian’s Team of the Year, finishing first overall with 29 points.

The squad got off to a slow start in the first round of the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Americas World Cup Qualifiers, but it was their play in the pre-qualifiers in the summer of 2021 that shot them up the FIBA World Rankings presented by Nike and got other nations to take notice of talent and depth of Bahamian basketball.

A few months prior, in February 2021, The Bahamas lost two games in the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers, finishing play in that tournament with a 1-5 win/loss record. They fell to the United States and dropped a close game to host nation Puerto Rico in that final window of the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers.

In the world cup pre-qualifiers, The Bahamas made its mark, finishing with an unblemished 3-0 record. They took down Cuba, Costa Rica and host nation El Salvador in that mini tournament. The performance in those three games put them just outside of the top 50 in the world rankings – about as high as basketball in The Bahamas has ever been ranked globally.

In the pre-qualifiers, Travis Munnings led the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game. He shot 48.4 percent from the floor but just 18.2 percent from three-point range. Kentwan Smith was the next highest scorer for The Bahamas at 13.7 points per game. Smith shot 46.7 percent from the floor and 50 percent from deep. Garvin Clarke added 12 points per game while shooting 40.6 from the field and 46.7 percent from three-point range.

Moving on to the qualifiers, The Bahamas was placed in a group with Canada, the Dominican Republic (DR) and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s the same three nations they faced in the previous FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifiers.

The country got off to a rough start as it lost the first two games in the first window to Canada emphatically, falling 115-73 and 113-77. In the past four years, the country has struggled mightily against Canada in senior men’s basketball, losing by an average of 37 points. The Bahamas was respectable against the U.S. Virgin Islands, losing by an average of nine points during that span, and actually recorded a victory over the Dominican Republic in the DR.

The Bahamas is currently ranked at number 62 in the world rankings. The other three teams in the group are all ranked higher than The Bahamas. Canada is at number 18, the DR is at number 20 and the U.S. Virgin Islands is ranked at number 54. The top three teams will advance to the second round of the qualifiers, and will join other teams to create two six-team groups.

Mako Aquatics finished second in voting for the Nassau Guardian’s Team of the Year with 26 points.

The local club won its third straight national swimming championships title in 2021, finishing over 300 points ahead of second place finisher Barracuda. Mako Aquatics amassed 2,081.50 points while the Barracuda Swim Club finished with 1,773 points. Finishing third was the Grand Bahama’s YMCA WaveRunners with 1,419 points.

Mako Aquatics was denied an opportunity to three-peat in 2020 due to the meet being canceled because of the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the nationals returned in 2021, and the club returned to the top.

Mako Aquatics Head Coach Travano McPhee said the third victory feels a lot sweeter than the first two.

“Last year (2020), we were not able to three-peat because of COVID-19. We came into this year (2021) with a very strong and determined team,” he said after the meet. “We were able to pull off our third straight victory. It was good to see swimming back on track and the swimmers back in their element. They were able to get back into racing again. I was very impressed with how the Mako swimmers were able to handle the four days of competition. Most of them were able to accomplish personal best times over the four days. They were able to focus on one day and one race at a time, which enabled them to come away with another victory.”

The Bahamas’ women’s 4×400 meters (m) relay team finished third in voting with 20 points.

The team was the only relay squad from The Bahamas to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which were contested in 2021 due to COVID-19. It prolonged a streak of at least one relay team from The Bahamas qualifying for the Olympics since 1996 – a streak of seven straight Olympiads. It’s also the first time during that span that the country’s men’s 4x400m relay squad failed to qualify.

The women’s team of Doneisha Anderson, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Megan Moss and Anthonique Strachan, in that order, clocked 3:29.40 at the Blue Marlin Last Chance Meet at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in June of 2021, grabbing one of the non-automatic qualifying spots for the Olympics.

In Tokyo, the team of Anderson, Moss, Brianne Bethel and Strachan, in that order, failed to finish after Strachan walked off the track on the anchor leg. Strachan later said she was bothered by a knee injury.

Be that as it may, just to qualify for the Olympics was a historic accomplishment for the squad. The team went into the event as a long shot to qualify for the final, particularly without the services of Miller-Uibo who endured the workload of two individual events, but still went out there and fought hard up until the unfortunate occurrence in the final leg.

The under-15 mixed 4x100m relay team of Phebe Thompson, Kenny Moxey Jr., Demian Brice and Jamiah Nabbie, which won gold at the 2021 NACAC (North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association) Age Group Championships, finished fourth in the voting process with 19 points, and The Bahamas’ Billie Jean King Cup Team which finished third in Group II of the Americas Zone in 2021, was fifth in the voting process for the Nassau Guardian’s Team of the Year with 17 points.

Once again, COVID-19 took a toll on sports in 2021. Despite the closure of sporting training facilities, disrupted schedules, and a lack of national team travel, Bahamian athletes were able to achieve significant milestones. It is hoped that sports will return to a state of normalcy in 2022, and that Bahamian athletes, in team and individual sports, will continue to experience success.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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