Gallant effort comes up short!

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Team Bahamas blows fourth quarter lead; fall to Venezuela

Sheldon LongleySend an emailAugust 26, 2022 362 5 minute readFacebookTwitterLinkedInShare via Email

 Bahamian NBA player Kai Jones leads the cheers at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium on Thursday night. The Bahamas fell, 86-81, to Venezuela. TORRELL GLINTON

The Bahamas’ senior men’s national basketball team missed some key baskets, and had some costly turnovers when it mattered the most, thereby blowing a golden opportunity to get a leg-up in the second round of the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Americas World Cup Qualifiers and pull off a major upset over a higher ranked opponent.

Venezuela prevailed 86-81 over The Bahamas, giving the host nation a hurtful loss inside a packed Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium on Thursday night. The Bahamas led by as much as 13 points in the second half, but failed to execute when it mattered the most.

Led by two of its three National Basketball Association (NBA) players, Chavano ‘Buddy’ Hield and Kai Jones, The Bahamas was in control for much of the game, but Venezuela came alive when they needed to the most – hitting 66.7 percent of their shots in the fourth quarter.

After The Bahamas went ahead 69-67 on a layup by Jones at the 6:37 mark of the fourth quarter, Venezuela responded with an 11-3 scoring run to take control of the game. They went ahead 78-72 with just 3:43 left in the game. The visitors kept the pressure on, taking an 82-74 lead with just 2:25 left on the clock, but Team Bahamas proved that it had one more rally in their legs.

A couple of free shots from Franco Miller, and another layup from Jones in which he was fouled on the play, pulled The Bahamas to within 82-78 with 1:43 left. After a couple of possessions came up empty, for both squads, Mychel Thompson found himself open from the right wing and nailed a three-point shot to pull The Bahamas to within one, 82-81, with just 17 seconds left on the clock.

An upset was brewing once again, but disaster struck as Hield was called for an intentional foul with just 8.2 seconds left on the clock, giving Venezuela two free shots and possession. Heissler Guillent missed one of two free shots for Venezuela, but they retained possession on the intentional foul call, and Team Bahamas was forced to foul again. This time, Gregory Vargas missed one of two free shots for Venezuela, and the host country had life again. However, Thompson forced the ball to Hield and a turnover led to Venezuela sprinting toward the other end of the floor with the basketball. They sealed the win with a layup at the buzzer.

“I thought we had a pretty good lead in the second half but a few plays didn’t go our way and they got some easy transition points,” said Team Bahamas’ Head Coach Chris DeMarco – an assistant with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.

“I just think we have to learn how to close games. When things get tough, we have to find a way to still compete. Mistakes will happen, but they can’t be compounded. Also, we have to do a better job as a staff to make sure that we have the right combination out there and take it from there.”

Jones had 20 points to lead all scorers, and added 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks for The Bahamas. Hield contributed 19 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Thompson had 12 points and Kentwan Smith knocked down a pair of early three-point shots and finished with 10.

“It was the best day of my life to be honest – just coming in from the jump and seeing everyone there supporting us. It’s a major blessing. It was amazing,” said Jones afterwards.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win tonight but it’s still a huge blessing to be able to play home in front of such great people. We need to put this one behind us and learn from it – just take care of the ball and get good shots overall as a group. We just have to stay positive and have a sense of togetherness out there. I feel like we were able to grow together throughout the game but we just let it get away from us with some little things. We just have to get better overall and we’ll get it. We just have to keep progressing.”

For Hield, in particular, it was his first time playing meaningful basketball inside the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium since his high school days at Jack Hayward High School in Freeport, Grand Bahama. He had a good shooting night, going 6-for-13 from the field and 5-for-9 from distance. Jones was strong as well, going 8-for-12 from the field. Overall, The Bahamas shot 46.9 percent from the field (30-for-64) while Venezuela was at 53.8 percent (35-for-65). The Bahamas shot 12-for-37 from three-point range, while Venezuela went 7-for-27. In other stats, the game was pretty much even.

In scoring, Garly Sojo and Michael Carrera led Venezuela in scoring with 17 points apiece last night. Windi Graterol added 12 points and seven rebounds and Nestor Colmenares contributed 11.

The Bahamas couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game against the number 17 ranked team in the world, according to the latest FIBA World Rankings, presented by Nike. The Bahamas itself is ranked at number 63, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell based on how both teams played in the first quarter, and pretty much, for most of the first half.

The home country led by as much as 12 points in the opening quarter, and took a 29-21 lead into the second quarter. The Bahamas shot 5-for-10 from three-point range in the opening quarter led by Hield who was a 3-for-3 and Smith who was 2-for-2.

Venezuela got back in the game in the second quarter, taking a lead at one point, but The Bahamas closed the half on a 9-0 run to take a 42-35 lead at the break. Six straight points at the start of the third quarter, climaxed by a three-point shot from Hield, gave The Bahamas its biggest lead of the game, 48-35. However, a 10-0 run got Venezuela back in the game. Another 10-0 run a few minutes later gave the Venezuelans a 57-55 lead with 3:22 left in the third.

The Bahamas held a slim 60-59 lead at the end of three quarters but crucial missed shots and costly turnovers hurt them in the fourth. The Bahamas enjoyed their last lead at 69-67. They got to within one point, 82-81, on Thompson’s trey with just 17 seconds on the clock, but that would be the last time they scored.

It doesn’t get any easier for The Bahamas as they will face Argentina on the road as the second round of FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifiers continue on Monday. That game will be played at the Polideportivo Islas Malvinas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, starting at 9:40 p.m. on Monday.

Still, this is the first time that Bahamas Basketball has advanced this far – to the second round of FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifiers.

There are two groups of six teams remaining in the qualifying process, and the second and final round of qualifiers will conclude in February 2023. The process will determine the seven teams that will participate at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, as the top three teams in each group and the best fourth-place team will qualify. The 2023 FIBA World Cup is set for August 25 to September 10, 2023 in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.

The Bahamas now has a 2-5 win/loss record in its group. There are six games in the second round of qualifiers and The Bahamas needs to win at least three of the six to have a realistic shot to qualify. In this final round of qualifiers, they will play Venezuela, Argentina and Panama twice – in home and away series.

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