Hield comes home to score 29 points for The Bahamas; team to play Venezuela and Argentina in August
Bahamian NBA player Chavano ‘Buddy’ Hield led a spirited effort from Team Bahamas with a game-high 29 points last night, but in the end, they were just overmatched as they fell 88-80 to the Dominican Republic (DR) at the Baha Mar Convention Center in Nassau, The Bahamas.
Still the team can celebrate tremendous success, advancing to the second round of the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Americas World Cup Qualifiers for the first time in history.
The Bahamas finished with a 2-4 win/loss record in Group C of the qualifiers, third behind Canada (6-0) and the DR (4-2). The top three teams in each group advanced to the second round which gets underway in August, and Canada, the DR and The Bahamas will be joined by three other nations in a new six-team group. It’s as high as Bahamian basketball has ever been on the senior side, and a major accomplishment for team sports in The Bahamas.
Bahamians knew no matter what the result of last night’s game would be, The Bahamas would be playing in the second round by virtue of its 97-80 win over the US Virgin Islands at the UVI (University of the Virgin Islands) Sports and Fitness Center in St. Thomas, USVI, on Friday.
With that accomplishment in its back pocket, the senior men’s national basketball team went out there and tried to end the third window of the first round of the qualifiers on a strong note, but it just wasn’t to be. However, it still was an improvement for the national team. The last time The Bahamas played the DR, they fell by 25 points, 90-65, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
“I think when we started to find our groove, it was a little too late. I’m proud of the group and the way we fought and the progress that we made,” said Team Bahamas Head Coach Chris DeMarco last night. “Overall, we would have liked to get the win, but there is a lot of things we could take from this. I think we’re headed in the right direction. We found a real good core of players who understand what we need to do to win games and we could only build from this. I’m really excited for the future here.”
For Hield, it was his first time playing at the national level at home and the first time he played in a meaningful game in The Bahamas since his high school days at Jack Hayward High School in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
“It was fun. We started off slow, but the environment was good and it was good to be home playing basketball here at home,” said Hield. “We appreciate the crowd coming out and supporting us. We’re getting better and better. Hopefully, we could get DeAndre and Kai in August and go from there, and just keep building from this. We have a small window, and this is our chance to make it. We’re looking forward to it. It’s a blessing to be home and I looking forward to something like this continuing. I’m proud of the way we played and now we’re looking forward to the next round.”
Hield’s fellow National Basketball Association (NBA) players DeAndre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns and Kai Jones of the Charlotte Hornets were unavailable for Team Bahamas last night.
As for the game, on the strength of a 12-0 scoring run about midway through the first quarter, the DR stormed ahead of The Bahamas and never looked back. They went on to lead by as much as 15 points in the first half, and 19 in the second. The Bahamas got the lead down to single digits with a 13-4 run late in the game, but it was too little too late for the home country. They got no closer than seven points in the fourth quarter, and that came in the waning seconds of the game.
Hield was fantastic in the early going, hitting his first four shots from the field, but turnovers, bad interior defense and a lack of rebounding plagued Team Bahamas in the first quarter. They fell behind by as much as 11 and trailed 26-17 at the end of one.
Much of the same continued in the second, and The Bahamas fell behind by as much as 15. A 9-2 run, led by seven points from Hield, got The Bahamas to within 36-28 with 3:43 left in the first half, but the DR closed the half on a 10-5 run including a Gelvis Solano shot at the buzzer.
The DR led by as much as 19 in the third quarter and settled for 70-54 lead going into the fourth. The Bahamas scored eight in a row to get the lead down to single digits for the first time since the second quarter, but there was just 1:48 left on the clock. The closest The Bahamas got the rest of the way was seven points, 87-80, on a jump shot from Travis Munnings, but there was just eight seconds left on the clock. One of two free shots from Solano completed the scoring and time ran out on The Bahamas.
Hield was 11-for-16 from the field including 6-for-9 from three point range for his 29 points. Munnings had 14, and Danrad Knowles came off the bench to score 12 for Team Bahamas. Franco Miller came on late with three three-point shots in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough. He finished the game with those same nine points from the fourth quarter.
Team captain of the DR Victor Liz paced them with a side-high 26 points last night. Eloy Vargas dropped in 17 and Angel Delgado contributed 15.
Former NBA player, Bahamian Rick Fox, was in the stands supporting Team Bahamas and said it was a thrilling experience for him.
“Being in the stands and feeling this up close, you get to feel the energy. The Bahamas came out tonight to support its players and it’s a great feeling,” said Fox. “It’s good to see that players like ‘Buddy’ come home to help build Bahamas basketball. It’s going to encourage the youngsters out there on the basketball courts here at home and basketball in The Bahamas could only go up from here. We as a community have to continue to support ‘Buddy’ and the rest of Team Bahamas.”
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture and former Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) President and senior men’s head coach Mario Bowleg also spoke of the tremendous crowd support last night.
“What’s important tonight is that the guys put on a good showing,” said Bowleg. “I don’t think we shot the ball as well as we’re capable of shooting the ball. They were bigger and stronger than us, but at the end of the day, Team Bahamas accomplished what it wanted to in this round which was to qualify for the next round. I’m so happy that Bahamians came home and supported Team Bahamas tonight. This is what we want to continue to see because the future is certainly bright for Bahamian basketball.”
The DR shot 55 percent from the field (33-for-60) last night and out-rebounded The Bahamas 43-30. They also went to the free throw line 23 times and made 16 of those shots. The Bahamas shot 44.4 percent from the field (32-for-72) and went just 3-for-6 from the free throw line.
It doesn’t get any easier for The Bahamas as they now have to play home and away games against Venezuela, Argentina and Panama for an opportunity to advance to the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which is set for August 25 to September 10, 2023 in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.
The second round for The Bahamas gets underway on August 25, 2022 when they will play Venezuela on the road. Four days later, they are scheduled to play Argentina at home.
The 12 teams in the second round of the qualifiers are divided into two groups of six teams – each formed from teams advanced from the first round groups.
All results from the previous round are carried over into the second round, and the three best placed teams in each group plus the best fourth-placed team will advance to the 2023 FIBA World Cup. The Bahamas is in the group with Venezuela, Argentina, Panama, Canada and the DR.
This is the first time in history The Bahamas has reached the second round of qualifiers for the FIBA World Cup.