Thursday, July 13, 2017
By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
The Bahamas overcame an 11-point fourth quarter deficit but their rally fell short, ultimately undone by a turnover problem that plagued them all game yesterday in the FIBA Centrobasket.
Leashja Grant led the Bahamas with a game-high 29 points and seven rebounds but the team lost the tournament opener 61-56 to Mexico at the UVI Arena in St Thomas, in United States Virgin Islands. Phylicia Kelly and Shalonda Neely each finished with six points while Valarie Nesbitt added six. Daniela Prado led Mexico with 14 points, Maria Orozco, Jacqueline Luna and Alexis Castro each finished with 10 and Brisa Silva scored eight.
The Bahamas entered the fourth trailing by seven, but Mexico would open with consecutive field goals to take a 52-41 lead. Pardo’s wing three maintained the 12-point lead 55-43 before the Bahamas went on a run. Grant sparked the run with a pair of free throws followed by layups from Neely and Kelly.
Grant would convert a three-point play on the next possession to cap a 9-0 run and trim the deficit 55-52 with 2:30 left to play. After the teams traded scores, the Bahamas had an opportunity to pull within one, or tie with a three, but turned the ball over with just over one minute left to play.
Mexico would seal the game at the free throw line and on the offensive boards down the stretch.
Outside of Grant’s scoring, the Bahamas struggled to find points and shot just 34 per cent from the field without making a single field goal from three-point range.
Nesbitt got the scoring started for the Bahamas with a floater, but Mexico scored nine unanswered, including one play where they stole an inbounds pass and finished with a three-pointer. Mexico went ahead by double digits on a Prado layup for a 14-3 lead with just under five minutes left to play in the quarter. They took a 23-10 lead after the first.
“They were definitely nervous, had jitters and, because of it, we dug ourselves in a deep hole,” said head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “We still have to find ways to rely on our defence. We lost our identity and tried to be an offensive team, but we just don’t have those types of players right now so we have to play better defence and grow up. We have not been together long so as I figure them out and figure out how to get the best out of them, I’ll do so but the attitude and effort, they have to bring it.”
After trailing by as much as 17, the Bahamas trimmed the deficit to just 10 headed into the half. Mexico struggled through a drought which lasted nearly five minutes, and Neely’s hook shot trimmed the deficit to six (30-24).
Castro finally broke the drought with a jumper at the top of the key to give Mexico a 32-24 lead at the half. Fourteen of Mexico’s made baskets in the first half came off 12 assists. They finished with 21.
Like the first half, Nesbitt opened the second with a driving layup to again cut the lead to six. On one possession the Bahamas had six second-chance opportunities from steals and offensive rebounds and Grant was finally able to corral a loose ball and finish with a layup to bring the team within five (41-36).
“Coach Yo picked us up at halftime. All of our heads were down, which they shouldn’t have been. She was able to pick us up and give us a boost,” Grant said, “Yes we fell short, but we can’t take that into the next game. Jamaica will be a brand new day, brand new team, we just have to execute and play Bahamas basketball.”
Round robin group play continues today as the Bahamas faces Jamaica at 3 pm local time.
The tournament features the national teams from the Bahamas, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and will be broadcasted live on FIBA’s official YouTube channel.
After the 5-day tournament, the top three teams will qualify to the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup 2017, to be played in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from August 6-13.
The last edition of the Women’s Centrobasket Championship was played in Monterrey, Mexico, where Cuba captured the title with a perfect 5-0 record.