Sports — 31 May 2017 — by Karim Juan - NEBL Commissioner
Belmopan Bandits defends home court to send Pepsi NEBL Finals to a decisive game 3

SAN IGNACIO TOWN, Cayo District, Fri. May 26, 2017–Game 2 of the Pepsi NEBL finals was played last night at the UB gymnasium in Belmopan. It was do or die for the home squad, Belmopan Bandits, who was down 0–1 in the best-of-three series against San Pedro Tiger Sharks. San Pedro Tiger Sharks, on the other hand, was smelling blood in the waters, and came out to finish off the series, and to grab their 3rd NEBL Championship in 4 years.

The UB gymnasium had a huge crowd last night, as the finals intensity was palpable in the arena. From tip-off, the game was very close, and the intensity level was high, given that an NEBL championship was on the line. None of the 2 teams were able to stamp their names on the game, as Belmopan Bandits was nursing a 20–19 lead at the end of the first quarter. Belmopan was able to build on that lead in the second quarter, 28–22, as San Pedro Tiger Sharks was struggling to find any offensive rhythm. However, the visiting squad went on a 10-point scoring run to finish the first half strongly, and to grab the 34–31 lead going into intermission.

The see-saw battle continued in the third quarter, with Belmopan Bandits grabbing back the lead 56–53, going into the final quarter of the game. Both teams were playing excellently, and no lead was given the opportunity to balloon out of control. In the final quarter of the game, Belmopan Bandits opened up an 11-point lead, which they were able to protect down the stretch, winning the game, 81–73. With the win, Belmopan Bandits tied up the best-of-three series one game apiece, to force a decisive game 3 in San Pedro next weekend.

Devin Daly had his first solid game in the playoffs, registering the game high with 26 points, while grabbing 6 rebounds and dishing out 4 dimes. Farron Louriano tallied 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals, while Greg “Chippy” Rudon also netted 14 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists, behind four key 3-pointers at the end of third quarter, and early fourth quarter. Edgar Mitchell finished the night with 13 points, 6 boards and 2 dishes.

Regular season MVP, George Williams was the top scorer for San Pedro Tiger Sharks with 21 points, while Douglas Valley netted 13 points, including three straight three-pointers that erased a ten-point lead at the end of third quarter, while ripping 11 rebounds. Kurt “Chengo” Burgess tallied 11 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Jamal Kelly came off the bench to finish the game with 11 points, 6 assists and 2 steals, while Raul Roches finished the game with 7 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

Belmopan Bandits had a huge 50–31 rebounding edge, which led to a 15–9 advantage on second chance points. Both teams shot 42% from the field, while Belmopan Bandits sank 11 three-point shots, compared to San Pedro’s 10 shots made behind the arc. Belmopan Bandits led for 32 minutes of the game, compared to San Pedro’s 8 minutes.

Game three will be played next week Saturday, June 3, at 9:00 p.m. at San Pedro High School in San Pedro Town. With the series tied at 1 apiece, the winner of game 3 will be this season’s NEBL Champion. Next week Saturday night, the NEBL will either crown San Pedro Tiger Sharks as three-time champions, creating a legitimate mention of legacy, or Belmopan Bandits will grab their first NEBL championship in franchise history, while becoming the first team to defeat San Pedro Tiger Sharks out in San Pedro, in the playoffs.

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Eden Cruz

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