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Packed venues and excited fans welcome in the NEBL 2019 basketball season

SportsPacked venues and excited fans welcome in the NEBL 2019 basketball season

SAN IGNACIO TOWN, Cayo District, Sun. Jan. 20, 2019– The much anticipated National Elite Basketball League (NEBL) 2019 season surely lived up to the hype for its opening weekend, as all three games witnessed packed auditoriums and raucous fans cheering on their favorite squads. All 3 games were decided by single digit points, with Cayo fans getting a treat to the first over-time game this season.

Hurricanes edge out Dream Ballers on Opening Night
© Berisford Codd

The defending champs, Belize Hurricanes were able to fend off their rivals from last season, the Griga Dream Ballers, 69-62, to put a check on the final box in a night of celebration, as the champs raised their championship banners into the rafters at the Civic. While it was a win, it was certainly not pretty, as the Hurricanes shot a frigid 24-72 from the field (a percentage that will expose them even more, given their loss of size up front with the departure of Tyson Reynolds and Chengo). Poor execution from the Hurricanes on opening night could have been expected, especially considering that the Hurricanes saw this as a “revenge game.” According to Hurricanes head coach Jamel Wagner, they were expecting a win against Griga. His main thought is “that Griga was the only team that beat the Hurricanes twice last year, so I personally still have a bitter taste in my mouth knowing so.”

Glency “Coope” Lopez led the way as the lone bright spot for the defending champs, finishing with 21 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds. After struggling in the close-out game of last season’s semifinals against the Hurricanes, Daniel Conorquie sent a strong message to the league that this will be his year to put Griga on his back to try and take them to the Promised Land! Conorquie was impressive from the tip, taking on the assignment of locking up Hurricanes star Devin Daly (3 of 15 shooting), and leading the way for Griga with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. It will be interesting to see if his intensity throughout the game will be a constant in the 2019 season, or if it was only a result of taking on the challenge of slowing down Daly, who showed him up numerous times last season. One thing is clear, he has put in tremendous work in the offseason to come back in peak physical condition… He will be a player to watch!

Two takeaways:
Hurricanes rebounding

In what was viewed as a strength for the Hurricanes last season, they were severely out-muscled, out-hustled and out-manned on the glass in the season opener. Is it a lack of size? A lack of skill? Or a lack of will? — That resulted in Griga winning the rebounding battle, 60-47, including a 21-13 lead on the offensive glass. Hurricanes big man Brian White, known as the best rebounder in the league outside of Kurt “Chengo” Burgess, only managed to pull in 3 rebounds in 27 minutes of play. White was out-worked all night by Griga big man Macario Augustine, who beat him time after time, to pull in 13 rebounds for the Dream Ballers. The well-advertised Belizean American import Tyrie “Harlem” Orosco fared slightly better than White on the glass, but still didn’t hold up to the tandem of Macario and Griga-import Henderson. Coach Wagner and the Hurricanes staff will need to go back to basics with box-out drills, as the talks of the ‘Canes being SOFT could begin sooner rather than later! Their motto this season should be No Rebounds … No Wins!!!

Buddy’s big shoes to fill

The Dream Ballers lost several key players in the offseason, but none as big as Daniel “Buddy” Nolberto. In what can be considered at best as “skillful negotiation,” the Bandits were able to sign Buddy and Brandon Flowers as center pieces for their revamped roster. Buddy was the heart and soul of the Dream Ballers last season, averaging over 16 points, and nailing dagger-three after dagger-three all season. Hoping to fill the shoes of Buddy are new Griga signees Jamal Kelly and Nayib Casimiro. Kelly got the start on opening night and came out firing with two pull-up threes to start the game. However, he went quiet for the rest of the night and came out with 8 points. The responsibility of guarding the athletic Hurricanes’ wings all night sent him into foul trouble, as he would spend much of the second half on the bench with four fouls. Casimiro, the expected heir apparent to the shooting guard role for Griga, forgot to load his rifle in Hopkins before coming up. The southern sharpshooter was pressing for his shot as he checked in, which was in part the reason for him finishing 0-6 from the field in only 10 minutes of play. Griga may have found something once again with the resurgence of Quinton Bowen, a capable small forward that plays within his game and would allow Conorquie to slide up to the shooting guard spot if Kelly and Casimiro do not work out. It is a certainty that playing in front of the loyal Dream Ballers fans next week will inspire a better performance for the Dream Ballers.

The Hurricanes will be off until February 2, when they will take on the San Pedro Tiger Sharks.

The Dream Ballers play their home opener on Saturday, January 26, against Verdes.

Verdes upsets Defenders in San Ignacio Town

Sacred Heart College auditorium was the venue for the first overtime game in the young NEBL season as Belize City Defenders and Verdes needed an extra 5 minutes to decide the winner. Verdes jumped out early with a 27 – 14 lead that they kept going into the half, 47 – 41.  However, Defenders threw a full court press that Verdes was unable to break, giving Defenders a 67 – 63 lead going into the fourth quarter. With the lead juggling from team to team, the game was decided in overtime as Verdes’ players sank some clutch free throws down the stretch to narrowly grab the 96 – 89 victory. For Verdes, American import Kris Frazier finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds while Richard Troyer chipped in 20 points and 9 boards and Elworth Itza chipped in 12 points with the game high 17 rebounds. Belizean American point guard, Tyrone Hall, was solid at the point, bring poise and confidence to break the excellent front court trap by the Defenders, finishing with 17 points and 4 assists while Andrew “Bynum” Ortiz tallied 11 points and 7 rebounds. Last year’s MVP, Nigel Jones came out the gates swinging, tallying 27 points and 9 rebounds for Belize City Defenders, while Gregory “Chippy” Rudon had 13 points, 4 steals and 2 assists. Captain Darwin “Puppy” Leslie was the only other player in double digit scoring for the visiting team with 11 points. Defenders scored 29 points off turnovers due to their full court trap, compared to Verdes’ 22 points while Verdes had a huge rebounding advantage, 75 – 47.

Tiger Sharks bites first up north

Orange Walk Running Rebels fans welcomed the start of the NEBL 2019 season with stunning numbers that came out at the Orange Walk Sporting Complex to watch their home team take on the powerful San Pedro Tiger Sharks. In the third quarter, Orange Walk Running Rebels was able to take a 5-point lead, but with 2 of their imports in foul trouble in the fourth, they did not have enough fire power to finish the game strong. San Pedro Tiger Sharks was led by Ashton Edwards, who had the game high with 25 points, hitting 6 shots from behind the arc, while American import, Martevuius Adams was huge with 18 points and 9 rebounds, while shooting 75% from the field. Winston Pratt tallied 15 points, 4 boards and 2 assists in the win. Roger Reneau was the top scorer for Orange Walk Running Rebels with 20 points to go with 3 rebounds, 2 dimes and 2 steals. Marcus Lewis finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds, while ten other players scored for the home team to give them a balanced offensive attack. With the addition of some big men to their roster, Orange Walk was able to neutralize Adams size and length, where both teams finished the game with 44 rebounds each. These two teams will have a quick turnaround this week, as they square off again on Saturday night at the Belize Civic Center.

Player statistics, team standings, schedule, news and all things NEBL can be found on our website at neblbelize.com and on our Facebook page at NEBL. The box scores and game stats can be followed live for every game by clicking on the game on our website. Basketball at its best.

Upcoming schedule:
Friday at 9:00 p.m. – Belize City Defenders vs Belmopan Bandits at Belize Civic Center
Saturday at 8:30 p.m. – Griga Dream Ballers vs Verdes at Russell Chiste Garcia Auditorium
Saturday at 8:30 p.m. – San Pedro Tiger Sharks vs Orange Walk Running Rebels at Belize Civic Center

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