Bahamas tops Poland 90-81, advances to semifinals

Senior men’s national basketball team advances to FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament semifinals

The quest to Olympic qualification got one step shorter for The Bahamas senior men’s national basketball team as they have now advanced to the semifinals of the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament where the stakes are even higher. 

Team Bahamas outperformed the no.15 ranked Poland 90-81 yesterday at the Pavello Municipal Fonf de Sant LIuís in Valencia, Spain.

The team capped off Group B play undefeated after knocking off Finland on Tuesday in their tournament opener. Baylor commit Valdez “VJ” Edgecombe gave the opposing team problems again on both sides of the ball. 

The Bimini native along with National Basketball Association (NBA) pros Chavano “Buddy” Hield and Deandre Ayton all combined for 56 points to advance to the semis.

Hield, the TCL player of the game, dropped 17 points, six rebounds and played the role of facilitator with 10 dimes. 

Edgecombe continued to make it look easy against the pros, turning in another strong performance with a team-high  21 points, six rebounds and two assists. 

The Bahamian big man got to work and put up 18 points, pulled down nine rebounds and picked the ball off twice in the win.

Eric “EJ” Gordon chipped in with 12 points that included two makes from deep.

“Buddy” said it felt great to get the win and come out of Group B undefeated but the job is surely not done yet. “It feels great. The job is not finished and we have to take it one game at a time and watch film. We do not know who we are gonna play but we just gotta keep being resilient on both ends, staying together as a group and take it one game and position at a time,” the three-point specialist said.

The Bahamas got out to a scorching hot start from deep in the early minutes of game two in Group B against Poland. The team canned their first four attempts from behind the arc and got ahead 23-13 at 1:53 mark of the first period. They ended the quarter in the driver’s seat 30-20. 

The Bahamas kept their feet on the pedal in the second quarter with Hield scoring eight of his 17 points during this time. With just 11 seconds on the game clock, the NBA free agent knocked down a two-point fadeaway shot to keep The Bahamas ahead 50-38 going into the halftime break.

National team head coach Chris DeMarco admitted that playing back-to-back games was challenging for the team but they answered the call.

“I think a challenging part of this was the back-to-back with the 5:30 games so we were interested in seeing how our guys would respond with such a quick turnaround. Poland hadn’t played a game here yet and you never know how a team is gonna come out with playing a game and on our end how it’s going to look on a back-to-back. 

“They are a great team. They are really hard to guard and they compete. I thought we had a lot of big plays from our others. I think a lot of times everyone focuses on Deandre, Buddy and Eric and we had other players make big time plays throughout the game down the stretch,” he said.

That other player would be Baylor commit VJ Edgecombe. He once again displayed that he is not afraid of the moment and picked up where Hield left off going into halftime. The athletic wing powered his way to seven of his 21 points in the third, including a massive dunk to close out the period with The Bahamas in charge 73-59.

He told reporters at the press conference he was grateful to have the opportunity as one of the team’s youngest players.

“It is super important and I am super grateful for the opportunity that was placed in front of me. Coach Chris trusted me on the floor to do the little things and just compete. I just want to give him credit for that. Overall, I am happy that I am here but now I know what is at stake. I just gotta continue staying focused, continue doing what I been doing the past couple games and just do whatever it takes for us to win,” he said.

Poland showed some major signs of life in the fourth quarter where they came alive for a 14-4 run to shave the deficit from 16 points to just six with 2:10 remaining. However, they did not get a chance to dig deeper into the lead thanks to Edgecombe who iced the game with a big-three pointer with just 34 seconds remaining in the game.

Although the Paris dream is still alive for The Bahamas, the team collectively understands there is still work to be done, according to coach DeMarco.

“I think everybody knows what’s at stake right now. I think we understand what it means to be in this position and what we fought for last summer to even get here right now. I think our guys are locked in and we are gonna give this thing our best shot. You never know when this opportunity is gonna come around again and I think our guys are really focused,” he said.

The Bahamas will have two days of rest and return to action on Saturday versus the second best finisher in Group A. 

If successful, the team will play in the finals on July 7 for a chance to make the Paris Olympic Games. 


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