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Team Bahamas falls short of making Olympics

Buddy Hield on the dribble.

Buddy Hield on the dribble.

Bahamas suffers 86-78 loss to Spain 

By BRENT STUBBS

Chief Sports Editor

bstubbs@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas’ bid for an historic shot at its first team competition at the Olympic Games came to an end in the finals of the FIBA Qualifying Tournament yesterday in Valencia, Spain.

After knocking off Lebanon 89-72 in their semifinal game on Friday, Team Bahamas didn’t have enough firepower left to prevail over Spain, who took advantage of their home court to secure an 86-78 victory. 

Despite the loss and falling short of booking their tickets to the Olympic Games in Paris, France from July 27 to August 11, Bahamas’ head coach Chris DeMarco said it was obvious that The Bahamas left its prints on the internal basketball world.

“We are here to stay. In saying that, we could have been better. To get to this point, we knew we had to be perfect. We were 7-2 over the last two summers, but we had to be 8-0.

DeMarco was referring to Team Bahamas’ perfect run through the FINA Americas World Cup Qualifier in Argentina last August when the Bahamas went undefeated to get to the Olympic Tournament in Spain.

“Obviously, we wished it was a better outcome. It’s a learning process for our guys,” said DeMarco, who was assisted by Mikhail McLean, Moses Johnson and Mychel Thompson,

“We have a lot of young talents and we will grow from this. It’s not over for us.”

In the four games they played in the tournament this past weekend, the National Basketball Association’s trio of Buddy Hield, Deandre Ayton and Eric Gordon, along with VJ Edgecombe, who is on his way to play for the Bears at Baylor University in his freshman year starting in August, carried the load for Team Bahamas. 

Hield, who was traded to the Golden State Warriors from the Philadelphia 76ers, led four other players in double figures with 19 points and six rebounds. 

Ayton, still with the Portland Trail Blazers, had 17 points, 14 rebounds and a pair of assists and steals while Eric Gordon, shipped to the 76ers, had 15 points. 

VJ Edgeocmbe, who is preparing to play his collegiate freshman year for the Bears at Baylor University starting in August,  came off the bench and contributed 12 points with six rebounds, five assists and two steals, Travis Munnings, who plays in Europe, finished with 10 points, four assists, two rebounds and a steal.

DeMarco said he was proud of the commitment and the dedication from the players, especially those who came in from a long NBA season to give their all to the team’s success, along with the bright young collegiate players. 

He noted that the future is bright for The Bahamas.  Against Spain, DeMarco admitted that The Bahamas gave it their best shot, but when they needed to hold off Spain when it counted the most, they couldn’t derail the host team. 

Spain, who has made four Olympic appearances in the past, opened a 25-17 lead at the end of the first. They held on for a 48-39 margin at the half.

But in the second half, the Bahamas was more consistent in the second half, scoring 22 points in both the third and fourth. But it was a little too late as Spain went up 65-56 at the end of third. Although the Bahamas came under 10-point digits in the fourth, Spain was able to maintain their lead to seal the deal. 

In the battle of the two undefeated teams, The Bahamas entered the final averaging over 91 points per game as well tournament-highs in field goal shooting, including from three-point range. Against Spain’s defense, they were held to below 80 points, and could only muster 8-of-23 from beyond the arc.

But Spain’s depth was another difference maker with 32 points to 17 off the bench.

Other members of Team Bahamas were Franco Miller Jr, Donovan Freeman, Lourawls Nairn, Kentwan Smith, Deyton Albury, Samuel Hunter and Jaraun ‘Kino’ Burrows. 

Bahamas 89, Lebanon 72: The Bahamas established his presence early and were able to maintain their presence the rest of the game as they advanced to the finals on Saturday.

Lebanon poised a quick challenge with an early 6-5 lead, but the Bahamas returned the favor with a 16-4 spurt to break the game open as they led by 15 points after the first ten minutes.

Ayton led the way with 10 points in the first quarter with a series of driving dunks. He ended up with a double-double with 24 points and 15 rebounds.

Hield also had another double-double with 19 points and 10 assists.

Ayton said the magnitude of playing for The Bahamas was what helped to propel them to victory.

“This is really big,” stated Ayton after collecting TCL Player of the Game honors. “This is bigger than any Western Conference Finals, you’re fighting for your country and there’s guys like us that don’t get paid for this.”

In the NBA, Ayton had an opportunity to play in the Western Conference Finals back in 2021, his only trip to that stage in four Playoff appearances over the past six seasons.

Team Bahamas started off with 9-of-10 shooting from inside the arc, and finished with 79 percent . They were 2-of-14 in the second half, but with a late flurry, Team Bahamas was able to seal the deal.

Lebanon missed their first seven attempts from three-point, and they were 4-of-19 with Sergio El Darwich leading the way with 4-of-9 for his 20 points.

Comments

birdiestrachan 2 weeks ago

I am very proud of our Bahamian team they have done well,

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