By RENALDO DORSETT
THE US Virgin Islands shot just 45 per cent from the free throw line, but made 5-6 down the stretch within the game’s final minute to keep the Bahamas at bay in the finale for both teams at the 2014 FIBA Centrobasket Under-15 men’s tournament.
The Bahamas finished in sixth place after they dropped the 56-52 decision last night at the Roberto Duran Arena in Panama City, Panama.
Franco Miller led the Bahamas with 16 points, Corey Sands added 13 points and eight rebounds while Malik Cleare added 10 points.
Nicholas Claxton led the USVI with a game high 18 points, Rahkeem Swanston added 15 and Miguel Lopez Jr chipped in with 13.
Following a Swanston three-pointer from the corner, the Bahamas trailed 49-39 with just under seven minutes left to play in the fourth quarter.
They would respond and fought their way back into the game after they scored on consecutive field goals and Sands made two of four at the line following a technical foul on USVI’s Kareem Dowling.
The Bahamas would trim the deficit to two, 52-48, with just over two minutes left to play when Michael Williams scored on an offensive rebound and put-back.
Miller would bring his team within a single possession the next trip up the floor when he made a pair at the line to make the score 52-50 with 1:23 left to play, however, the Bahamas could never manage the equaliser.
USVI’s Earl Baker made a pair at the line, but the Bahamas responded on the ensuing possession with a runner from Sands to stay within two with under one minute left in regulation.
The USVI missed on a deep jumper late in the shot clock, but the Bahamas was unable to gain possession of the rebound and was forced to foul and send Baker to the line once again. He regained the four-point advantage for his side when he made another pair, 56-52, with 19.3 left to play.
A turnover on the ensuing possession ended any comeback hopes for the Bahamas as the USVI tacked on three of four throws for the game’s final margin.
The Bahamas shot just 32 per cent from the field (19-60), 50 per cent from the line (11-22) and 30 per cent from from three-point range (3-10).
They won the rebounding battle, 40-31, but committed 18 turnovers, which the USVI transitioned to 14 points.
The Bahamas scored just five points off the USVI’s 14 turnovers.
The USVI opened the game by making their first three shots from the field en route to an early 7-2 lead.
Ackeem Hanna was able to make a layup and Miller tied the game on a jumper from distance, 7-7. It would be the first of three ties in the quarter.
Miller’s second three gave the Bahamas a 14-12 lead before the USVI tied it once again at 14 headed into the second.
After a Swanston three gave the USVI momentum and a six-point lead, the Bahamas responded with back-to-back jumpers to make the score 23-21.
The Bahamas’ defence created scoring opportunities, but had a stretch where they missed consecutive fast-break layups and went 0-4 from the free throw line.
Despite the offensive struggles, the defensive effort was enough to keep the Bahamas in the game, and a Cleare runner with 26 seconds left to play tied the game at 27 headed into the half.
USVI opened up the third quarter with a 5-0 run before the game was delayed for nearly a half hour due to technical difficulties.
The delay did little to stop the USVI run as they opened with a score once play resumed to extend the lead to seven.
USVI went up by 10 on a Claxton layup, 40-30 with 4:47 left in the period and took a 44-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Bahamas finished the tournament with a 2-3 win-loss record.
After opening the tournament with consecutive losses, the Bahamas finally got in the win column on day three with a 60-45 win over Guatemala in the final game of the preliminary round.
Sands finished with one of the best games of any player in the tournament with a side high 29 points, 12 rebounds and three steals.
Franco Miller finished with nine points and four assists and four other members of the Bahamas chipped in with four points apiece.
Hector Coronado led Guatemala with 13 points.
The Bahamas made it an even 2-2 the following day with a 48-31 win over Costa Rica in the reclassification round.
Sands finished with a team high 11 points and eight rebounds, Malik Cleare added eight while Ivoine Ingraham chipped in with eight points off the bench.
Shyrone Kemp added a team high 10 rebounds.
Jose Delgado was the lone player for Costa Rica in double figures with 10 points.
It was a difficult start to the tournament for the Bahamas with a lopsided loss to Puerto Rico on day one.
The team fell behind 16-12 after the first quarter and 38-17 at the half and they were never able to get back into the game as Puerto Rico went on to extend their lead to 58-27 going into the final break before they went on to post a huge 78-40 victory.
Deangelo Mackey led the way with nine points, Miller added eight points while Sands added six points and five rebounds.
In game two they came up short in a 70-63 loss to the host country Panama.
Mackey once again turned out to be the offensive spark for the Bahamas, producing 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Sands had 17 points and 10 rebounds while Miller finished with 12 points.
The top three finishers at the tournament will qualify for the 2015 FIBA Americas Under-16 Championship.
The Bahamas was also represented on the officiating front in Panama City by FIBA certified referee Shandera Gardiner.
Gardiner is one of 12 referees representing 12 countries charged with officiating the tournament.
In their previous appearance at the Centrobasket U15 Championships, the Bahamas won a bronze medal and advanced to the Tournament of Americas.