Sports — 14 March 2014 — by Malcolm Hyde

(Smart) No Limit Soldiers fall to Western Ballaz in San Ignacio

The Belize City (Smart) No Limit Soldiers arrived at the Sacred Heart College Auditorium, which was already packed with Western Ballaz supporters, last Friday night about 20 minutes before tip-off time. The atmosphere in the building was great, and the fans were chomping at the bit for some top level basketball. Much respect must be given to the Western Ballaz organizers and promoters for hosting such a grand basketball event; hopefully, that kind of experience can be duplicated in all 8 home gyms for the remainder of the National Elite Basketball League (NEBL) season.

It was evident that this home court would be one of the best in the league, as the noise level was off the charts even for the player introductions. And when the game finally got underway, the local fans erupted with excitement as the Ballaz’ Farron Louriano won the jump ball over No Limit’s Andrew Ortiz. The Western Ballaz fans would maintain their high energy throughout the entire 40 minutes of action, as they all screamed at the top of their lungs with every made basket and rebound by the home team. MC’s for the night, local deejay Mistah G and Belize City native Melissa Coleman, led the crowd in chants such as: “DEFENSE” and “LET’S GO BALLAZ,” in which each fan participated with immense gusto.

The Belize City No Limit Soldiers would get off to a slow start, as they trailed the Cayo side 23 to 11 at the end of the 1st quarter. The home side increased their lead to as many as 18 points in the 2nd. Matters were only made worse for the visiting No Limit Soldiers when their captain and leading scorer, Gregory “Chippy” Rudon, got called for 2 unsportsmanlike fouls and was ejected for using some profane language in communicating his displeasure and disagreement with some calls the referees were making.

In the FIBA rules, under which the NEBL is playing, a technical foul, which is a non-contact foul of a behavioral nature, counts as a regular player foul. Therefore, a player can accumulate as many as 5 technical fouls before being disqualified from the contest. In the case of an “unsportsmanlike foul,” however, if a player were to acquire 2 of these, then he/she would immediately be ejected from the game and the arena.

But what actions warrant an unsportsmanlike foul? According to the Official Basketball Rules, as approved by FIBA Central Board on the 29th of April 2012 and valid as of the 1st of October 2012, an unsportsmanlike foul is a player contact foul which, in the judgment of an official, is not a legitimate attempt to directly play the ball within the spirit and intent of the rules. The officials must interpret the unsportsmanlike fouls consistently throughout the game and judge only the action. So, if Mr. Rudon never made any physical contact with the referees, then, in this writer’s opinion, the call should have been a technical foul and not an unsportsmanlike foul, and Gregory Rudon should have been allowed to continue the game.

Nevertheless, the Soldiers would proceed without their leader. The score at the end of the 1st half was 45 to 29 in favor of the Western Ballaz. In the 3rd quarter, the lead would balloon to as many as 22, as the No Limit Soldiers struggled to regroup. The Soldiers would manage to cut the deficit to 9 at the end of the 3rd, on their way to the biggest comeback of the season thus far.

It was in the 4th quarter where the Soldiers would finally even the score and then take the lead for the 1st time in the game. The two teams went back and forth, taking turns holding the advantage in crunch time, and with less than a minute remaining, the Belize City (Smart) No Limit Soldiers had a 73 to 70 lead.

It seemed as if the Soldiers were poised to pull off the miracle, after having trailed for over 35 minutes in the game, with a chance to exit the building with a victory. But the Western Ballaz were able to tie the game with seconds remaining, then, even as the desk officials signaled for a No Limit timeout, the referees were unable to hear over the screams and yells of the crowd, and allowed the game to continue. Kurt Burgess managed to steal the No Limit inbound pass and was fouled, then was able to hit 1 of 2 free throws to give the Western Ballaz the 74 to 73 win over the Soldiers.

The game was an exciting one for all who “bear witness”. Belize City (Smart) No Limit were led by Andrew Ortiz with 21 pts and 4 rebs, Brandon Rogers with 11 pts and 5 rebs, and Elsworth Itza who pulled down 12 boards and put up 9 pts in the losing effort. The No Limit Soldiers will try to bounce back this Friday, as the Belmopan Point Bandits come into town. The action starts at 9:00 p.m. inside Bird’s Isle in Belize City.

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