A furious third-quarter comeback from Barbados just failed to get them over the line, as they were defeated 78-71 by the United States Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Basketball Confederation (CBC) Championships in Tortola late last night.
The result meant Barbados have won one and lost two of their matches in the tournament so far, after going down to St. Vincent and The Grenadines in their opening game and defeating the British Virgin Islands on Wednesday night. They are now out of medal contention with one more game to play in the group matches.
Playing at the Multi Purpose Sports Complex in Road Town, Barbados once again started with Mark Bridgeman, Keefe Birkett, Jeremy Gill, Akeem Marsh and John Jones. They got off to an awful start. The USVI’s power forward Craig Williams’ three-pointer got the game going as his team rushed into a 12-0 lead with Barbados cold on offence.
It took almost three minutes before Barbados could find a basket with Jones scoring two after missed attempts from Birkett and Marsh. The USVI continued to dominate on the offence with Williams dropping two further treys on Barbados as they extended the lead to 14-2. A three-pointer from Birkett then seemed to settle Barbados somewhat as their offensive game started to match their defence which clicked in the early period.
A basket by Marsh with four minutes, 37 seconds to go in the first quarter brought the score to 14-7. Stifling defence by the Bajan lads kept the USVI scoreless for more than two minutes in the period while baskets from Marsh and Gill reduced the deficit to 14-12 with two minutes and 26 seconds to go in the period. But then Barbados’ offence went cold again as two more treys from Williams and a basket from power forward Ivan Aska boosted USVI’s lead once again. Jones’ two-point play just before the buzzer meant the quarter ended with the USVI leading 23-14.
The second quarter followed much the same pattern as the first. Both teams missed their early offensive efforts before guard Angel Rivera made a two-pointer a minute and 15 seconds into the quarter. Conversely, Barbados went almost two minutes before they got their first basket in the session when substitute Jabar Williams sank a three-pointer to cut the score to 27-17.
Once again it was some stirring defence that saw Barbados make a run on the USVI. They managed to keep the islanders scoreless for almost four minutes in the quarter while baskets from Bridgeman and a couple of free-throws from substitute Rahiim Gibbons saw Barbados claw their way back to a mere 27-22 deficit. But as in the first quarter, they went cold again on offence as the USVI upped the score to 33-25 before Bridgeman nailed a deep trey.
Aska took over on offence for the USVI following Williams’ heroics of the first quarter and ignited the crowd with two massive dunks in the period. He was also robust on the boards and also created a steal, though Barbados protected the ball much better in the game than they had done previously against St Vincent & The Grenadines and the BVI.
The USVI went on a 12-0 run in the closing stages of the first-half where Barbados couldn’t buy a basket even with US currency. Coach Nigel Lloyd called a full timeout with just two minutes on the clock for the half but the pep talk had little effect as nothing would drop for the Bajans.
Barbados came out in the third quarter with a mission and facing a scoreline reading 45-28 and the momentum very much with the USVI. Most good things in basketball start with defence and Barbados, led by Marsh, played inspiringly. Birkett was not as explosive on offence as he had been against the BVI, but this was compensated for by Marsh who played like a man possessed on both ends of the floor. He rebounded as though his life depended on it and would eventually grab 20 huge boards.
He, along with Gill and Williams, provided important offence for Barbados in the third quarter with Williams’ second three-pointer approaching the end of the third cutting the the USVI’s advantage to 56-50 with three seconds to go. Barbados outscored the USVI 22-11 during that period.
Barbados started the final period with Williams, Vanderpool, Birkett, Bridgeman and Junior Moore on the floor. Once again, as though following an early-quarter script, the Bajans started the fourth quarter in lacklustre offensive touch and did not find the bottom of the nets until just over two minutes into the period via a free-throw made by Marsh. That brought the score to 61-51.
Barbados would again go cold as the USVI increased their advantage to 66-51 before Gill scored a jumper to cut the lead to 13 points. Once again, Barbados showed the importance of defence. They contested every shot, hounded every possession, and so harried the USVI that their opponents, following a free throw by small forward Khalid Hart that put them up 68-55, went scoreless for more than three minutes.
Baskets by Birkett, Marsh and Gill would see the USVI’s big lead evaporate as Barbados brought the score to 68-67 with a minute and 43 seconds left in the game.
With excitement rising both in the arena and on Barbados’ bench, and anxiety starting to appear among the USVI’s ranks, Gill’s two-pointer with a minute and 29 seconds on the clock gave Barbados their first lead of the game at 69-68.
Aska immediately responded to put the USVI back up 70-69. At this stage Barbados could not sustain their efforts and went cold once again over the final minute of the game. Some clumsy fouls sent Rivera and Kevin Sheppard to the charity strip and the free throws buried Barbados. A block on Gill’s shot attempt in the dying stages also didn’t help Barbados’ cause. A two-pointer by Vanderpool would be the only offensive success for Barbados as time expired.
Ironically, while the USVI went 22 of 25 from the free throw line, Barbados missed seven of their 25 attempts – the margin of defeat.
Marsh had 17 points, Gill, 16 and seven rebounds, and Birkett, 10 points and six rebounds. For the BVI, Aska had a game-high 26 points and nine rebounds, Williams had 18 points from six of eight from three-point range, as well as 10 rebounds, and Hart chipped in with 11 points.