If ever there was a defining moment for the Bulldogs, it happened last Thursday night against the BNE Oilers, on the road, at the University of Belize gymnasium, in the waning moments of game two of their best of three semifinal series. “Character” and “poise” are the two words which best describe their performance, with little over three minutes remaining in regulation. Most teams would have simply crumbled under the pressure of being up by as many as thirteen points midway through the third on the road, and seeing it dissipate in the twinkling of an eye, following an inspired late charge made by the hometown Oilers, who eventually took a one-point 77-76 lead, with under three minutes to go. However, the Bulldogs are a unique and cohesive bunch, and they immediately answered the bell, with Judson Stubbs throwing back down a missed field goal, which then gave his team the 78-77 lead. And it did not stop there; “Rookie of the Year” Tyrone “Joka” Edwards got in the action, hitting a big field goal, and then Ronald Rivers’ back breaking three-pointer capped off a late 9-0 run engineered by the Bulldogs, which sealed the 85-77 victory.
The Bulldogs had five players in double figures, led by Judson Stubbs 19 pts 9 rebs 2 assists, Ronald Rivers, who is arguably the best pure shooter in the league, had 15 pts; while Tyrone “Joka” Edwards put up 13 pts 5 rebs 5 assists. Darren Bovell and Darwin “Puppy” Leslie also contributed 12 pts each in the win. Meanwhile, for the Oilers it was Aubrey Lopez with 21 pts 9 rebs, followed by Edward “Bart” Sanchez with 18 pts 9 rebs 5 assists.
As a team, the Bulldogs shot an improved 40% from the field and 71% from the charity stripe. They had a season high 7 blocked shots and committed only 13 turnovers. The Oilers, on the other hand, shot 39% from the field and 58% from the free throw line. They out-rebounded the Bulldogs 38-36, making them the first team this year to accomplish this feat; however, they turned the ball over a miserable 24 times, which clearly was a contributing factor to their eventual demise.
While there has been much talk being thrown about, that the Bulldogs have not looked quite as sharp in the playoffs as they did in the regular season, winning only by an average of five points, they, as a team, continue to display tremendous heart and character, and have shown no signs of letting up. Obviously, their temperament is fueled by their Head Coach, Matthew Smiling, who is an intense individual, who is dedicated to winning and, simply put, knows how to win.