By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Bahamas men’s national team dropped a heartbreaking 84-81 loss to Mexico and now they are automatically eliminated from contention of winning the CentroBasket Tournament in Panama.
For the first three quarters, the Bahamas went inside as they controlled the tempo, leading 26-18 after the first, 46-36 at the half and 73-60 at the completion of the third.
But Mexico turned things around completely in the fourth, opening up a 15-0 spurt to snatch a slim 75-73 lead with five minutes and 37 seconds left on the clock.
Guard Michael Carey broke the scoring drought with a jumper to tie the score at 75-75.
Despite guard Taran Cox fouling out at 3:24, guard Leon Cooper responded with a three-point play to put the Bahamas up 78-75. The Bahamas would remain up by three (80-77) thanks to a lay-up from shooting guard David Nesbitt with 2:06 left.
But with 37.6 remaining, Mexico got within one (80-79) after Jean ‘Rony’ Cadot missed a basket. Cooper answered by hitting the last of two free throws to put the Bahamas up 81-79.
However, with 12.6 on the clock, Mexico hit a three-pointer for a 82-81 lead. After a Carey turnover with 10 seconds, Mexico got away on a fast break for a lay-up and a 84-81 lead.
The Bahamas had one last chance for a buzzer-tying three-point attempt, but it fell short.
Mexico went on to celebrate as they improved to 3-1 and will join the Dominican Republic in the battle for the top spot out of Group B.
With the loss, the Bahamas dropped to 1-3 in the opposite direction. The Bahamas lost its opener 82-74 to the British Virgin Islands, but rebounded to crush Costa Rica 82-58 before losing again to the Dominican Republic 87-80.
Their game against Mexico came after a day off.
Seven-foot centre DeAndre Ayton led the Bahamas’ attack with a game high 24 points, nine rebounds, five block shots and two assists. Three other players were in double figures as David Nesbitt finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, Leon Cooper came up with 13 points, six assists and five rebounds and Michael Carey added 10 points. Kentwan Smith was the next highest scorer with nine points.
Coaches Mario Bowleg, Norris Bain, Wayde Watson and Kevin ‘KJ’ Johnson played the game without centre Jaraun ‘Keno’ Burrows and guard Able Joseph.
The Bahamas outscored Mexico 50.8-32.5 per cent in two-point field goals, but Mexico won the battle 36.8-20 per cent from behind the three-point arch. The Bahamas held a 78.9-76.2 per cent advantage from the free throw line.
Mexico controlled the boards, snatching 15-9 offensive rebounds, compared to 33-29 defensively for the Bahamas. Mexico came out with a slim 44-42 advantage.
However, in the biggest statistical category, the Bahamas had 11 turnovers compared to just seven by Mexico. And the Bahamas relinquished as much as a 17-point lead, while Mexico’s biggest lead was just three.