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Our basketball heroes

SportsOur basketball heroes

BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 12, 2024

The Belize National U18 Basketball Team players and coaches have all returned home, some to their current state of residence in the USA, and others to their respective home districts in Belize. But for the past week or so in Argentina, they were “BELIZE”, a bunch of strangers putting this little nation of less than half a million people from the coast of Central America, firmly on the map and in the consciousness of a number of big nations in South America and elsewhere. In beating the giant Brazil in our AmeriCup tournament opener, the Belize youths had accomplished the unthinkable, shook up the region, and would henceforth not be taken lightly. Except for the USA game and the last game against Puerto Rico, in which star forward Josiah Mosely did not play, every other game was competitive until the last quarter, when the lack of time training together caught up with the tiring torsos of our players, and our opponents broke away to finish on top. But our team had given enough of a scare to their opponents, that there was great rejoicing when they managed to secure a victory.

With two groups of 4 teams each in the tournament, in the group phase, Belize played a game on three consecutive days. There was a day of rest before all 8 teams entered the quarterfinals on Friday, then the semifinals on Saturday, and the finals on Sunday, with losers from the quarterfinals also playing qualifying rank games on Saturday and Sunday.

The 106-102 victory over Brazil on Monday will be a game to remember, as it saw 5 Belizean players scoring in double figures: Josiah Mosely with 31 pts, Douglas Langford with 28 pts, Elijah Favela and Ian Parham with 14 pts apiece, and Wilford Dawson with 10 pts; other scorers were Devin Moody with 7 pts and Michael Caceres with 2 pts. Top scorer Josiah Moseley played 34 minutes, while Douglas Langford remained in the game for 38 minutes.

After our opening 106-102 victory over Brazil, our next opponent on Tuesday, defending champions the USA, came out with “full force” to smother Belize early, and cruise away with a 150-54 blowout. Under heavy defensive pressure from the first tip-off, only 3 Belize players managed double figures in scoring against the USA: Ian Parham had 12 pts, Mosely 11 pts, and Favela 10 pts. The rest of the scoring was by Langford with 9 pts, Jason Orosco with 4 pts, and 2 pts each from Michael Caceres, Wilford Dawson, Daniel Musa and Devin Moody. Interestingly, Belize shot 3/6 (50%) from the free throw line; while the USA shot 25/36 (69.4%), which means we committed 36 fouls in comparison to the USA’s 6 fouls. (By comparison, in the Brazil game, Belize shot 24/32 (75%) FT, while Brazil went 20/26 (76.9%) on free throws. Mosely went 11/13 (84.6%) on free throws against Brazil, while against the USA he did not go even once to the free throw line. In fact, only 2 Belize players shot free throws against the U.S., Douglas Langford 3/4 (75%) and Michael Caceres 0/2 (0%).

On Wednesday, June 5, Belize faced host Argentina, and it was even, 23-23, after the first quarter. But by the half, Argentina led, 57-42, and went to a 109-73 victory. Again, our “men to watch” did not reach the “charity stripe” often. As a team, Belize went 14/19 (73.7%) from the free throw line, with Mosely going 3/4 (75%) and Langford 2/2 (100%), though they had seen 33 minutes and 37 minutes of action, respectively. Mosely scored 23 pts, Langford and Favela 18 pts each, Wilford Dawson 5 pts, Caceres 4 pts, Parham 3 pts, and Devin Moody 2 pts. Meanwhile, our Argentinian opponents shot 24/31 (77.4%) on free throws.

Next was the quarterfinal against the Dominican Republic (DR) on Friday, June 7. This one was a real battle for 3 quarters, which established that Belize can compete handily at this level. The DR led 12-11 at the end of the first quarter. At the half it was tied, 34-34; after the third quarter it was tied again, 54-54. But in the decisive fourth quarter, the DR took the lead and won, 79-69. In this playoff match with a trip to FIBA World Cup on the line, Belize’s Josiah Mosely played a game-high 40 minutes, leading his team’s scoring with 25 pts, but only taking 3 free throws, going 3/3 (100%). As a team, Belize shot 5/5 (100%) on free throws, with Meshach Flowers going 2/2 (100%). Langford played 28 minutes and scored 9 pts, but did not visit the Free Throw line. Meanwhile, DR went 8/14 (57.1%) on free throws. Belize’s scoring was led by Mosely’s 25 pts along with 13 rebs, followed by Ian Parham with 17 pts 3 rebs, Wilford Dawson with 14 pts 6 rebs, Langford with 9 pts along with 11 rebs, Meshach Flowers with 2 pts 2 rebs, and Jason Orosco with 2 pts 1 reb. It was a jubilant victory for the Dominican Republic, and a hard loss for Belize. But our boys took it with grace.

On Saturday, June 8, Belize faced Venezuela in a classification game amongst the 4 losers from the quarterfinals. This one, for the first time, really looked like a game we should have won easily, as Belize dominated the game early, leading 23-16 to end the 1st quarter, 45-35 at the half, and 60-49 at the end of the 3rd quarter. But then things began to go downhill for our boys, and the 4th quarter ended with them deadlocked, 68-68. Venezuela went on to win in overtime, 87-80. It would seem that Belize ran out of gas, as both Mosely and Langford played 42 minutes of basketball. Our scoresheet showed Mosely with 31 pts 5 rebs 3 assts 1 stl 5 blks; Favela 20 pts 2 rebs 1 asst 2 stls; Langford 13 pts 11 rebs, 3 assts, 2 assts, 4 blks; Tevaughn Dawson 7 pts 8 rebs, 3 assts, 2 stls, 1 blk; Jason Orosco 7 pts, 1 reb, 2 assts, and Wilford Dawson 2 pts, 7 rebs, 2 assts, 1 stl. On free throws, Belize was 16/20 (80%), while Venezuela was 20/27 (74.1%).

On Sunday, June 9, the tournament climaxed with Canada beating the Dominican Republic, 89-67, for 3rd place, and then the USA trounced Argentina, 110-70, for the championship. Before that, Brazil secured 5th place in the ranking by edging Venezuela, 66-64; and Puerto Rico claimed the 7th spot when they prevailed, 79-51, over Belize. It wasn’t the full Belize team on the floor, however, as Mosely didn’t play, on request of the university which has drafted him in the upcoming school year, it not being a championship or 3rd place game. There was a scare in the Venezuela game when Mosely was on a breakaway and was apparently hacked and remained down court recovering for a while, with no call. With little rest between games, and him drawing so much defensive attention, the decision to sit out that last match was justified.

Puerto Rico led all the way in this one, 21-12, 36-29, 57-40, and 79-51, the final score. Free throws were, for Belize 4/9 (44.4%), and for Puerto Rico 10/14 (71.4%). Belize’s scoring was led by Devin Moody with 12 pts, 6 rebs, 1 ast 1 stl; Wilford Dawson with 10 pts, 7 rebs, 2stls; Langford 8 pts, 14 rebs, 1 ast (no FT); Favela 8 pts, 1 reb, 2 ast; Parham 5 pts, 2 reb, 1 stl; Musa 3 pts, 4 reb, 1 ast; Amare Jones 2 pts, 2 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl, and Meshach Flowers 2 pts, 1 reb.

With no opportunity to train together, it was an amazing accomplishment just to be competitive for our Belize U18 National Basketball Team, of whom all Belizeans are justly proud.

Of note, despite the less than ideal circumstances, all reports are that our players carried themselves with dignity and sportsmanship throughout the event, and were good ambassadors for our country. Congratulations to all you guys! Having proved what we are capable of at the highest level internationally, it is now time for the national budget to reflect the importance of adequately financing the preparation of our Belize national teams when they are to represent Belize in international tournaments.

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