By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
After fighting so hard to get back into the game, the Bahamas women’s national team saw their chance of winning their opening match at the Caribbean Basketball Championships slip away down the stretch against the US Virgin Islands in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, on Tuesday.
The Bahamas, using their height advantage to come back from a 14-5 deficit at the end of the first quarter, saw the lead switch numerous times before the pesky Virgin Islands held on for a close 56-51 victory.
It came down to a couple of plays where the Bahamas failed to capitalise, including an errant pass and the failure to inbound the ball within five seconds.
On the last possession with 12.8 seconds left on the clock and trailing 55-51, Leashia Grant was called for the five-second violation as she failed to inbound the ball in time. Tracy Lewis had a chance to cut into the deficit, but she missed a pair of free throws.
Jonquell Jones then fouled Victoria Hamilton, who converted one of her two free throws to seal the deal as time expired.
After the game, a disappointed Bahamas head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin had to be restrained after she confronted the referee who made the violation call.
The Bahamas played well up to that point, out-scoring the Virgin Islands 15-12 in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 26-20 at the half. The Bahamas went on a 26-9 spurt in the third for a slim 36-35 margin going into the fourth and final period.
Shanea Armbrister, playing 30 minutes and 36 seconds, led the Bahamas with 17 points on 8-of-19 from the field and 1-for-6 from the free throw line, to go along with seven rebounds, two assists and two block shots. Jonquell Jones, in 28:31 minutes, was the only other player in double figures with 15 points and 12 rebounds and three steals.
Cedricka Sweeting and Taneil Poitier both came off the bench and brought a lot of spark in the second half, had six and five points respectively. Grant finished with four points, nine rebounds., two assists, two steals and a block shot.
Natalie Day also had 17 points with a game high 17 rebounds in 36:32 minutes to lead the Virgin Islands, who also got 14 points from Tanecka Carey and 12 from Lanese Bough. She also had seven rebounds.
The Bahamas game was the second played on day one of the tournament. In the opening match, the Dominican Republic blew out Barbados 86-42.
Playing out of Group A, the Bahamas will play their second game today against St Vincent and the Grenadines. They played their first game against Jamaica on Tuesday.
On Independence Day on Thursday, the Bahamas will take on Barbados in the final game of the round robin. Depending on where they finish, the Bahamas will either play for a classification on Friday or in the semifinal round. The final round will be played on Saturday as teams vie for qualification into the CentroBasket in Monterrey, Mexico, July 22-26. Group A will feature Costa Rica, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the second place finisher at the CBC Championships. Group B will comprise of El Salvador, Cuba and the first and third place finishers from the CBC.
The women’s team is hoping to follow the men’s national team, who won the title on Saturday with a 75-64 victory over Cuba to earn their berth into CentroBasket, scheduled for August 1-7 in Nayarit, Mexico.
The Bahamas and Cuba are slated to play out of Group B with Puerto Rico, El Salvador and Mexico. Group A will feature the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Panama and the US Virgin Islands, who got third place at the CBC.