Sports — 26 May 2018 — by Karim Juan – NEBL Commissioner
NEBL championship series tips off on Friday at the Civic

SAN IGNACIO/SANTA ELENA, CAYO, Tues. May 22, 2018– The date and teams are finally set for the big showdown in the 2018 NEBL Finals, and this will be the first year in the NEBL’s five-year history that San Pedro Tiger Sharks will not be participating in the final dance. However, Darwin “Puppy” Leslie will be in his fourth NEBL Finals in five years, to now tie the San Pedro Tiger Sharks’ franchise. Newcomers, DigiCell Belize City Defenders have climbed their way into the finals, making them the first team to reach the finals who have entered the playoffs as the #4 seed. History was also recorded when both semifinals series were stretched out to three games.

After a battle last night, Smart Belize Hurricanes was the victor, joining their Belize City comrades in the championship series. It is the first time that two Belize City teams have reached the finals, where Smart Belize Hurricanes will try to win another ring, after being the 2016 champions. This is also Hurricanes’ Kurt “Chengo” Burgess’ fourth trip to the finals in 5 years.

On Friday, June 1, the NEBL will be distributing this year’s regular season awards before tip-off at the Belize City Civic Center.

Smart Belize Hurricanes survived Griga’s onslaught; advances to 2nd finals

Last night, the Belize Civic Center was home to game 3 of a hotly contested semifinal series between Smart Belize Hurricanes and Griga Dream Ballers. Both teams were able to defend home court in the first two games, leaving game 3 to be the final battle between the #2 and #3 seeds. The visiting squad, Griga Dream Ballers were able to establish themselves at tip-off, taking an early 21–10 lead at the end of the first quarter. It was crucial for the visitors to establish themselves early in the game, while combatting the loud fan base in the Civic Center.

At the half, Griga was able to hold on to a 7-point lead, 32–25. Griga was led by Daniel “Buddy” Nolberto, who finished the night with 15 points and 3 assists, while Edgar Mitchell tallied 10 points and 4 dimes, and Trevaughn Usher chipped in 10 points off the bench.

In the third quarter, the lead was trimmed down to 3 points, 45–42, as Griga Dream Ballers were facing major foul trouble issues, with Daniel Conorquie fouling out by midway through the quarter.

Griga continued to nurture their lead, and with 1:59 minutes remaining in the game, the score was all tied up at 52 apiece. Key free throws and offensive rebounds were the key factors to determine the winner, as the home squad, Smart Belize Hurricanes was able to survive the onslaught with a 60–54 victory. Devin Daly was the top scorer in the game with 20 points and 5 rebounds, while Kurt “Chengo” Burgess’ stat line was 14 points 9 boards and 2 dimes.

This game was déjà vu for the Griga Dream Ballers, as game 1 saw them establishing a double-digit lead at the Civic Center, only to lose the game in the fourth quarter.

Smart Belize Hurricanes had a huge 19–10 advantage on the offensive glass, while they shot more than twice the number of free-throws than Griga, 35–16, and hit 19 shots from the charity stripe, compared to Griga’s 8.

With the win, Smart Belize Hurricanes will now face their city rivals, DigiCell Belize City Defenders, where they split the season series, with both teams winning at home.

Nigel Jones, DigiCell Belize City Defenders advance to NEBL Finals
by Charleston Gladden

In the final game between San Pedro Tiger Sharks and DigiCell Belize City Defenders, there was a tense environment (on Saturday night at the San Pedro court), where both teams had something to prove to the league and the nation of Belize, in a decisive semifinals game 3, win-or-go-home scenario. Both teams are equally matched against, and it’s only a matter of wanting it more that will be the deciding factor in this series.

Due to excellent shot creation and tough defense, DigiCell Belize City Defenders made a jump on the Tiger Sharks team early on in the game. However, before the opening quarter was over,  their lead vanished, and it was Tiger Sharks with a 1-point lead, 25–24.

Throughout the second quarter, the San Pedro Tiger Sharks maintained their lead; even though, whenever their rivals kept slimming down the lead, they kept their poise and finished the first half with a small 4-point advantage, 48–44.

In the beginning and throughout the second half, it was an anxiety builder, where both teams kept exchanging leads, and at any point either team could lose their momentum and composure.  Things got a bit intense when Raul Roaches was put to defend Darwin Leslie. In multiple possessions, Leslie kept falling unto the floor beside Roches, but the referees continued the game. It was not until Leslie fell hard on the floor, and said that enough was enough, and confronted Roches about his foul play, that things seemed to cool off a bit. But not before, with him being restrained by his teammates, and having other players coming on the court from both sides, where players were aiding their teammates, those doing so were ejected out of the game. From that point on, it was the Nigel Jones Show, where he scored 10 of his 25 points to help seal the victory for his team, and winning by the score of 78–74.

Nigel Jones of DigiCell Belize City Defenders received the Player of the Game honors with 25 points and 18 rebounds, showing why he deserved to be called the Regular Season MVP. His supporting cast were Darwin Leslie with 18 points and 7 rebounds, and Francis Arana with 15 points coming off the bench. Top scorers for San Pedro Tiger Sharks were Jihad Wright with 19 points and 8 rebounds, and Martevuius Adams with 20 rebounds (an NEBL playoff record) and 17 points.

Tip In

Defenders:  advanced to the NEBL finals in their first year with a rookie head coach in Troy Gabb, Jr… Lincey Lopez and Mateo Gutierrez were both ejected out of the game in the fourth quarter… becoming the first team to defeat San Pedro in a semifinal series.

Tiger Sharks:  will miss their first NEBL finals, after appearing in the previous four… Bernard Felix was ejected due to an altercation in the fourth.

Cinderella Story

DigiCell Belize City Defenders became first team in NEBL history to enter the playoffs as a 4th seed and defeat a 1st seed team.

Upcoming Finals Schedule

Friday, May 25 – Smart Belize Hurricanes vs DigiCell Belize City Defenders at the Belize Civic Center at 9:00 p.m.
Friday, June 1 – DigiCell Belize City Defenders vs Smart Belize Hurricanes at the Belize Civic Center in Belize City at 9:00 p.m.

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Deshawn Swasey

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