BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 23, 2018– There were high hopes, and great confidence about the possibilities for our Belize National Basketball Team that hosted the FIBA AmeriCup 2021 Central American pre-qualifying triangular this past weekend at the Civic Center in Belize City. Drawing from our foreign based talent along with a healthy mix of youth and experience in our home based players, the Belize team made a great effort to overcome a game, though smaller, El Salvador squad on Friday night, 71-67; but ran into a brick wall in the fourth quarter of the championship match against a tough Costa Rican defense on Sunday night, scoring only 8 points in the fourth, and eventually losing by a 57-52 score.
Belize vs El Salvador
The tournament opened on Friday night with Belize facing El Salvador and pulling out a 71-67 win after some scary moments in the fourth quarter, after El Salvador erased a 10-point Belize lead, and even jumped in front with a couple minutes remaining in the game. But a key basket by Charles Garcia and two free throws by Devin Daly helped to salvage the win for Belize. Nevertheless, there were signs that our team, though loaded with talent, was not as cohesive overall as our opponents, especially down the finishing stretch. That can only come with time together; as basketball legend Clinton “Pulu” Lightburn opined on the Press Cadogan Sunday morning show – “our team is together for two weeks, while our opponents have been together for two years.” Leading the scoring for Belize against El Salvador were Devin Daly 18 pts 8 rebs, Charles Garcia 16 pts 9 rebs, Oscar Darwin Carter 10 pts, and Richard Troyer 7 pts 8 rebs; while El Salvador’s outstanding guard, Robert Sandoval led all scorers with 23 pts 8 rebs 4 stls, along with Josue Cruz 10 pts 3 stls, Carlos Serrano 8 pts 7 rebs, and Brayan Rivas 6pts 10 rebs 4 stls.
El Salvador vs Costa Rica
The last FIBA World Ranking for July 3, 2018, puts El Salvador at #110, while Costa Rica is ranked #84. Like in FIFA, the effectiveness of countries’ sporting programs is strongly reflected in their basketball ranking, where the USA is at #1. Belize is presently not ranked, as the national team has not been active for some time.
Our Belize team had a day to rest and relax, and more importantly, to observe their future opponents, Costa Rica, in action on Saturday night, to plan for their Sunday night game. But Costa Rica didn’t show everything to Belize on Saturday. In control from the opening whistle, Costa Rica led El Salvador all the way, leading 20-16 at the end of first quarter; 32-29 at the half; they opened a gap, 54-44, to end the third; and then walked away in the fourth for a 69-49 victory. Costa Rica had balanced scoring from Carlos Moya 14 pts 7 rebs, Isaac Lobo 13 pts 6 rebs 6 assts, and Jefny Brown 13 pts; while El Salvador’s Robert Sandoval again top scored in the game with 22 pts along with 8 rebs and 5 stls, and his teammate Julio Arias added 14 pts 5 rebs, and Carlos Serrano 7 pts 10 rebs 4 assts.
Costa Rica vs Belize
Fan turnout increased perceptibly on Sunday night for the championship final between our Belize national team and the Costa Rican visitors, who had demolished El Salvador the night before. It was tied 13-13 after the first quarter; Belize led 29-27 at the half; we held on to a 44-41 lead at the end of the third quarter; and then in the fourth, something happened; and coach Milton Palacio and assistants Darren Bovell and Roscoe Rhys, along with our national team members will likely be studying tapes of this game for some time in the future. For sure, the defensive intensity from Costa Rica went to another level, as their coach, Daniel Simmons, had obviously studied and targeted their strategy to focus on defence, and to neutralize our best offensive weapon in game 1 – Devin Daly, who was restricted to only 3 points in the final. They had also devised a strategy to stop the slashing drives of the small-framed Glency Lopez, who ran into hard blocks, and needed to be carried off on a stretcher early in fourth quarter. Belize managed only 8 points in fourth quarter, while Costa Rica had their biggest scoring quarter with 16 points, to pull out the 57-52 victory and the championship. Costa Rica had only one player in double figures, Kay Martinez Fairdough 15 pts, while eight others chipped in, including Jefny Brown 7 pts 6 rebs, Carlos Moya 7 pts, Rohel Barnett 6 pts 5 rebs 5 assts, and Isaac Lobo 5 pts 6 rebs, George Kirkeness 5 pts, Amaurys Santos 4 pts, and David Solorzano 2 pts. Belize also had only one player in double figures, Charles Garcia 14 pts 7 rebs 2 assts, along with seven others, Charles Burgess 9 pts 6 rebs 4 assts, Glency Lopez 8 pts 2 rebs 2 assts, Daniel Conorque 6 pts 7 rebs, Richard Troyer 5 pts, Jared Chatham 4 pts, and Devin Daly and Englebert Cherrington with 3 pts apiece.
Head referee for all three games was Omar Bermudez (MEX); and he was assisted on Friday night by Maripier Malo (CAN) and Grant Alexander (USA); on Saturday by Nathaniel Saunders (CAN) and Grant Alexander; and on Sunday by Maripier Malo and Nathaniel Saunders.
MVP of the tournament was Costa Rica’s Kay Martinez Fairdough.
Congratulations to the Costa Rican champions, who were presented with Gold medals by COCABA president, Yamil Bukele, and BBF president, Paul Thompson. Belize team members received Silver medals; and El Salvador got the Bronze.