Photo: The scoreboard proclaimed the blowout
Belize Elite Basketball League 2023 Tournament results and upcoming games:
Friday, March 17: Benny’s Belize Hurricanes 143, Punta Gorda Panthers 78 (Belize City Centre); Orange Walk Running Rebels 101, Western Ballaz 89 (OW Multi-Purpose Complex).
Saturday, March 18: Griga Dream Ballers 77, Belize City Defenders 72 (Russell Chiste Garcia Auditorium); San Pedro Tiger Sharks 103, Belmopan Red Taigaz 88 (UB Gym).
Friday, March 24: Belize City Defenders vs Belmopan Red Taigaz (Belize City Centre); Orange Walk Running Rebels vs Griga Dream Ballers (OW Multi-Purpose Complex).
Saturday, March 25: San Pedro Tiger Sharks vs Benny’s Hurricanes (San Pedro High School); Punta Gorda Panthers vs Western Ballaz (Toledo Sports Complex).
Benny’s Belize Hurricanes 143, Punta Gorda Panthers 78
BELIZE CITY CENTER, Fri. Mar. 17
The Benny’s Belize Hurricanes fielded yet another starting line-up which returned Jamell Harris at center, Kris Frazier at forward, Glency “Coope” Lopez as the point guard, with Victor Evans re-inserted as the shooting guard. As had been announced, forward Kirk Smith, Jr. was introduced and took the court as the small forward.
It took this new configuration almost the entire first quarter to establish a rhythm, but the ‘Canes led 30-21 at the end of one.
The Punta Gorda Panthers, who dressed 10 players, picked up 8 fouls, 2 each on 3 of their starters in the first, and became hesitant, settling for long outside shots, and seemed to struggle adjusting to the officiating which was calling it tight, all fouls, even touch ones known in the parlance of the sport as ticky-tack ones. 3 of their players would foul out before the end of the game.
Although they shot 6-12 from the field in that first quarter, they also had 5 turnovers and only went to the free-throw line just once. Their shooting did not improve in the second quarter, and they trailed 74-45, by 39 points, at the half.
Tavian Davis, one of the BEBL’s leading scorers, was defended almost the entire game by the Hurricanes bigger guards, but despite the Hurricanes keying on him from the get-go with their big combo guards, he still finished with 27 points.
Near the end of the first, sixth man of the year candidate Tyrie “Harlem Kid” Orosco entered, and he was accelerant to a so-far-awkward ‘Canes. He would finish with a game-high 38 points in only 24:38 minutes of play on 16-22 shots (2 of 3 from deep), but the rest of his stat line (14 boards, 3 dimes, and 3 steals) tells the story of his all-around game and its impact.
6 Hurricanes players scored in double figures. Tavian Davis also led his team with 6 boards and 4 assists, but was forced into 10 of his team’s 25 turnovers.
Orange Walk Running Rebels 101, Western Ballaz 89
ORANGE WALK TOWN, Fri. Mar. 17
The host team, the Orange Walk Running Rebels had billed tonight’s match-up with the visiting Western Ballaz as an opportunity for sweet revenge at their Orange Walk Multi-Purpose Complex, the visitors having won their first encounter on their home court.
Besides assuaging the sting of that 23-point defeat, a win meant a fifth consecutive victory, and the momentum showed in a boisterous home crowd that thronged the seats.
The Rebels led early, but their 25-20 first quarter lead was erased by the half behind a 2nd quarter, 13-point explosion by the Ballaz’ Mark Gordon, one of the tournament’s leading scorers. His game-high 34 points led all scorers, and it was the visitors who led 52-49 at the half.
His teammate Richard Smith III, the tournament’s leading rebounder, also registered 15 rebounds in the loss.
The Rebels, however, recovered behind their own Brian Hudson in turn exploding for 13 points in the 3rd, and were able to complete the night with a 101-89 victory powered by Hudson (21 points), James Stanback (21 points), and Tyrone Hall (20 points).
For the Western Ballaz, it meant another 2-game skid and dropping in the standings to second to last.
Belmopan Red Tigaz 88, San Pedro Tiger Sharks 103
BELMOPAN, Sat. Mar. 18
Francis Arana has quietly been having a superlative season (is among the tournament leaders with 19.3 points per game and leads the BEBL with 6.0 assists and 2.9 steals per game), and his free throw in the first quarter here at the University of Belize auditorium gave his visiting San Pedro Tiger Sharks team their first lead, a lead they would not relinquish en route to at 103-88 road win.
Arana also dished a game high 12 dimes tonight along with 22 points and 4 steals. Teammates J. Stewart added the game high 23 points and 10 boards, while J. Kelly contributed 10 points and 13 rebounds, and K. Young 15 points and 10 boards.
Jeremiah Toney (24.4ppg) led the young Red Taigaz with 29 points. Brian Flowers also tallied 27.
For the BEBL’s youngest team it has been a season of lessons for the learning from the adversity of competing with older more experienced teams. Tonight’s result means the teams flip-flopped in the standings and in the race for the last playoff spot.
Griga Dream Ballers 77, Belize City Defenders 72
DANGRIGA, Sat. Mar 18
Russell Chiste Garcia Auditorium seemed strangely subdued and quiet despite an overflow crowd on hand to witness the Griga Dream Ballers welcoming the other BEBL tournament co-leader, the Belize City Defenders. The usual sound of pulsating drums was nowhere in evidence since, as was later learned, the drummers were otherwise engaged.
The Defenders were also a man down since their head coach Matthew Smiling had not travelled with the team since he was serving a one game suspension. His assistant Hugh “Pinas” Staine, a 30-year veteran, ably stepped into the role, however.
The hosts trailed by as much as 18 points in the second quarter after a slow start; perhaps they and their adoring home fans missed the drums. A run led by their all-star backcourt of Edgar Mitchell and Devon Campbell along with Jahiem Ciego managed to close the gap to just 6 points 38-32 by half time.
The deficit again ballooned to 16 midways through the third quarter on a Defenders run powered by Nigel “Mr. MVP” Jones and Mykeil “Boogie” Tzul; but a counter run led by Devon Campbell and Delvon Henderson brought the home team back to within 1 before the end of the quarter which ended 54-60 in the visitors’ favor.
The Dream Ballers would finally edge ahead midway through the final quarter and hold on down the stretch behind some superb defence from Henderson and Dominic Woodson. Their defence was anchored by Delvon Henderson’s game high 5 blocks. Henderson leads the league with an eye popping 3.8 blpg.
The loss saddles the Defenders, who have been one of the tournament’s co-leaders from its inception, with a 3-game losing streak and a drop into fourth and the last playoff spot.
Griga Dream Ballers will travel to Orange Walk this weekend for a showdown with the similarly streaking Running Rebels who are also the proud possessors of a 5-game winning streak.