Sports — 06 May 2017 — by Bernard Wagner
NEBL “In the Paint”

MVP George Williams leads Tiger Sharks to Game One win over Western Ballaz

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 4, 2017–George Williams, the NEBL’s 2017 Most Valuable Player, had 20 points and 5 assists, on 4-of-8 shooting from the field, and the San Pedro Tiger Sharks made 11 3-pointers to beat the Cayo Western Ballaz, 82-78, last Saturday at home, to take a 1-0 lead in their semifinal matchup.

Raul Roches added 19 pts 7 rebs 2 assts, while Doug Valley finished with 15 pts, hitting on 3-of-6 from downtown.

The Tiger Sharks were more energetic at the outset, jumping out to a 26-17 lead, and at one point led by as many as 20 points in third-quarter play, 69-49.  But the visitors rallied in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Sharks, 27-13, and pulling within one point to tie, 79-78, with 23 seconds remaining in regulation.  But clutch free-throws, two by Ashton Edwards and one by George Williams late in the game, sealed the victory for the home-town Tiger Sharks, as they take game one of the three-game series.

Darwin “Puppy” Leslie led five Ballaz in double figures with his 18 points 3 rebounds 2 assists and 4 steals.  Brandon Flowers played huge, totaling 16 pts 7 rebs on 7-of-12 shooting from the field; while Ray Cruz came off the bench and added 12 pts 7 rebs.  Gene Myvett also chipped in with 12 pts 4 rebs 2 assts, followed by Elsworth Itza 11 pts 12 rebs.

While the Tiger Sharks have had their way with the Ballaz over the course of the regular season, a rivalry has been developing between these two teams, and game two should be more of the same.

Belmopan Bandits dominant in Game 1 road win over Dangriga Dream Ballers

The Belmopan Bandits rolled into the playoffs last Friday night, earning the huge 71-55 game 1 win over the home-town Dangriga Ballers in a contest that was close up until the conclusion of 2nd-quarter action.  In Japan, the number nine is generally considered a bad-lucked number; in Dangriga last Friday night, the faithful, for a fleeting moment or two, felt they were in Japan, as their home-town Ballers could only muster 9 points per quarter for the next two quarters.  This obviously enabled the visiting Bandits to outscore them 30-18 in those final 20 minutes of regulation, to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three semi-final round.

Four players combined for 49 points in the win, with Stephen Williams leading the way with 14 points 6 rebounds 2 assists, followed by Greg “Chippy” Rudon coming off the bench with 14 pts of his own, to go along with 3 rebs 3 assts.  Edgar Mitchell also had a strong effort, with 11 pts 6 rebs and 6 assts; while Farron Louriano added 10 pts and 11 rebs.

Notwithstanding their paltry 10-point first-quarter output, the Bandits regrouped and outscored their opponents, 61-38, the rest of the way, assisting on 12 of their 24 made field goals.

Tahj Wells did his best to keep the Dream Ballers in this game with 18 pts 13 rebs and 3 blocks, on 8-of-13 shooting.  The problem, however, was the lack of help around him.  Dillmore Conorquie went AWOL at an inopportune time, scoring just 4 points on a miserable 2-of-21 shooting night from the field; this, when coupled with his 4 turnovers, capped one of his worst performances of the year.  Quinton Bowen and Akeem Trapp were no better, hitting a combined 5-of-24 attempts, for a total of 14 points.

The Bandits’ defense had been a question mark throughout the regular season, giving up an average of 76 points per game, which ranked 6-of-7.  As we had pointed out in last week’s article, this series would ultimately determine whether defense could overcome offense.  In game 1, offense prevailed.

By the time this article hits the streets, game two would have already been decided.  If the Bandits continued with their show of offensive muscle, our report in next Tuesday’s edition will be congratulating the Bandits on their first trip ever to the NEBL finals.  However, if the Ballers commit to their core trait, that is, of playing hard-nosed defense and rebounding the ball, we, more than likely, would be previewing a third and decisive game 3 back in Griga!!!


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