Sports — 10 May 2017 — by Bernard Wagner
NEBL “In the Paint”

BELIZE CITY, Mon. May. 8, 2017

Bandits complete sweep of Dream Ballers, makes Finals debut

Give the Dangriga Dream Ballers credit; they gave it all they had, but at the end of the day, their best was not enough against a very deep, experienced, and highly talented Belmopan Bandits team. As a result, the clock struck midnight on the Ballers’ Cinderella season last Thursday night at the UB gymnasium, as they fell by the final score of 76-72. The Bandits displayed the markings of a team on a mission, and with the win, inched one step closer to completing their team goal, that is, of winning their first ever NEBL championship.

After trailing by double digits for most of the third and fourth quarters, the visiting Dangriga Dream Ballers had their best opportunity of the night to steal the game. It came following a made basket by Tahj Wells deep inside the paint, with just 1:51 remaining in regulation, which made the score 71-68 in favor of the Bandits. An ensuing missed three-point attempt by Bandits’ point guard, Edgar Mitchell, followed by a defensive rebound by Wells, without doubt put the home-town Bandits fans in some distress. This was amplified even more so, when Wells was fouled in the act of shooting by Stephen Williams, thus sending him to the charity strips, with the chance to pull his team within one of the tie.

In the heat of the moment, to foul or not to foul will always be the question; the results on this particular play, ultimately showed that the veteran Stephen Williams of the Bandits unmistakably did his homework on Wells. Choosing to send the 48% free-throw shooter Wells to the line, with the Dream Ballers’ season resting squarely on his shoulders, was simply a clever move by Williams, and a better choice, rather than have him make the easy field goal. Wells cooperated, missing both free-throws, and a couple seconds later, his teammate Dillmore Conorquie did the same, making just 1 of 2 at a critical juncture in the game, which ultimately decided the outcome of the game.

What if? This will be the question the young Dream Ballers will ask themselves over the summer ahead. “What if we could have made those four free-throw attempts?” There is no telling what the outcome may have been; for certain, they would have outscored the Bandits 7-5, which may or may not have changed the outcome.

But that’s the worth of having these battle-tested veterans, the likes of Stephen Williams, the Keith Acosta’s, and the Greg Rudon’s, that decorate the roster of the Belmopan Bandits, and which clearly separates them from the young Dream Ballers and, to some extent, the rest of the league.

The Bandits had three players tallying double-figure scoring – led by Farron Louriano 24 points 13 rebounds, Devin Daly 16 pts 6 rebs 3 asst, and Stephen Williams 14 pts 4 rebs 1 asst.

The Bandits were better than their opponents from long distance, hitting 8 of 34 three-point attempts compared to the Ballers 3 of 16.

Dillmore Conorquie and Quinton Bowen both had impressive bounce-back performances, totaling 19 pts 6 rebs 1 asst and 18 pts 14 rebs 5 asst, respectively; while Tahj Wells was his usual self, recording another double-double, 14 pts 12 rebs.

The Ballers didn’t have their best defensive effort of the season, allowing the Bandits to average 73 pts per game during the series, while shooting almost 25% from long range. Contrastingly, they were poor from long range, hitting just 7 of 40 from three-point land, and were not as dominant in rebounding the ball as they were during the regular season, which in the end led to their demise.

Western Ballaz tie series with 75-63 win, live to fight another day

Darwin “Puppy” Leslie had 20 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 6 steals on 5-of-10 shooting from the field; Ray Cruz also scored 13 pts to go along with 5 rebs 3 asst; while Ivan Flowers came off the bench and hit for 11 pts, followed by Gene Myvette’s 10 pts 7 rebs 4 asst. This balanced scoring arsenal was enough for the Western Ballaz, as they staved off elimination with the 75-63 victory over the San Pedro Tiger Sharks in Game 2 of the NEBL semifinal round, played last Friday night at the Sacred Heart College Auditorium in San Ignacio Town.

The Ballers, unlike in Game 1, were unable to have five players score in double figures this time around; but four apparently was sufficient for them to send this best-of-three series back to San Pedro for a third and decisive game.

Now, George Williams and company must try to win at home this coming weekend, as they try to punch their ticket to a fourth straight NEBL finals appearance.  Tied at 51-all with 8:48 remaining in fourth quarter regulation, the Tiger Sharks missed 9 of their next 13 shots, and committed 6 turnovers, as the Western Ballaz outscored them 24-12 to grab command of the game.

Kirk Burgess and Raul Roches led the Tiger Sharks attack with 19 points each, followed by Jamal Kelly with 10 pts. Notably missing was the league’s MVP, George Williams, who did not play in this one due to injury. As a unit, the Sharks shot 37% from the field on 22-of-58 shooting. They committed 16 turnovers, which were converted to 21 points by their opponents. They did not get much support from their bench, as they were outscored 27-10 by the Ballaz bench.

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