By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THEY fell short of advancing to the CentroBasket Tournament, but head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said she was still pleased with the performance of the women’s national team at the Caribbean Basketball Confederation Championships in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
The team was unable to join the men’s team, who will be heading to Mexico next month for the CentroBasket Tournament. But McPhee-McCuin said after losing just one game, they were squeezed out of caontention by .02 points and ended up finishing in fifth place.
“It was encouraging because we beat the No 37th ranked team in the world in the Dominican Republic,” McPhee-McCuin said. “We are a very young team, so the future is extremely bright. We have an opportunity to compete in CBC again next year and I’m sure they won’t underestimate us because of how they did because of the way things were done in the past.
“The average of this team is 24 years, so they should be around for a long time. Every team that advanced had at least one professional on their team and we had none. We are excited about the future and hopefully we can get Waltiea (Rolle) to come out and join us as we continue to build on what we have developed here.”
Despite not qualifying, the Bahamas closed out play by producing the most outstanding performances as a team, routing Guyana 113-27 to advance into the fifth playoff game and demolishing Barbados 102-54 to clinch the fifth place. The two victories were the most lopsided recorded during the games.
“The girls were all heartbroken when we found out that we didn’t advance and I told the girls we could do two things - pack up and go home and they can meet me at 8:45am for shoot around and we can make a statement,” she said.
“So those two games were statement games. But I want the Bahamian public to know something. This was not about a team we just strung together. We intend to build up the women’s programme that will be good for years to come. Those other teams are seasoned, they play together and they have a good relationship. The bold was evident. So if we can do that same thing and keep this core group together, the Bahamas will be a force to reckon with in years to come.”
As the head coach of the Jacksonville University Dolphins women’s basketball team, McPhee-McCuin said the effort must be made to provide an opportunity to keep their line of communication open at all times so that they can continue to bond together as a team.
“I plan to bring them to JU (Jacksonville University) to train instead of me having to go to the Bahamas to work out with them. They can come to Jacksonville and train like the guys did in Colorado,” said McPhee-McCuin, referring to the training camp that was held at Colorado State where head coach Larry Eustachy serves as the head coach of the Rams men’s team. “I needed air condition to train in. I didn’t have any.”
In preparation for next year’s tournament, McPhee-McCuin said she intends to bring the team to Jacksonville where they can get in a workout during the Christmas and allow her to monitor the progress of the players, ensuring that they stay in some type of physical fitness.
“We are going to try and get coaches Varel (Clarke) and (Sharon) Storr to hold workouts while they are home as well,” McPhee-McCuin said. “And we hope that physical fitness trainer Jimmy Mackey will provide a programme for the players to stay in the MaxD Gym training as well.”
McPhee-McCuin said even though the Bahamas didn’t advance to the CentroBasket, she hopes that the Bahamas Basketball Federation will allow her to continue to serve as the head coach and to utilise the coaching staff that she had to work with in Tortola as they move forward.
“We were the best team according to everybody in the tournament. We were just inexperienced,” she said. “In our first game, we missed 15 wide open layups. That’s inexperience. That’s nerves, that’s not having the experience. We won’t have that next time.
“For more than 50 per cent of the team, it was their first time playing at this level. As a coach, it was also my first time. But I felt I had a tremendous amount of urgency and I had to shed the light that we can’t afford to lose the game that we lost to the Virgin Islands.”
Unfortunately, the team lost 56-51 and had to work their way back into the tournament, stunning the Dominican Republic 70-69 in overtime and knocked off Barbados 84-59 to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Bahamas, however, didn’t advance as a result of the point spread and had to end up playing for fifth place overall.
The Bahamas ended up with a balanced scoring attack as four players came through in double figures. Jonquel Jones led the way with 21 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists. Debinique Knowles had 17 points and eight rebounds, Philicia Kelly also had 17 points and Britenique Harrison added 10 points.
In fact, all of the players who played scored as Diasti Delancy, Tracy Lewis and Leashia Grant each had eight, Shanea Armbrister and Taneil Poitier both had seven, Cedricka Sweeting six and Ashley Moss four. The only player who didn’t play in the game was Linda Pierre.