Bajans lose heartbreaker
ROAD TOWN, Tortola – BARBADOS came up just short.
Yet there was nothing small about the performance at all.
The ultramarine and gold almost pulled off a comeback for the ages, valiantly rallying from down 20 to take a stunning fourth-quarter lead, before running out of steam in Wednesday’s 81-77 heart-stopper against hosts British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Basketball Confederation Championships.
It proved the cruel end to the Bajans’ title hopes, with the result officially knocking them out of the semi-final rounds after the United States Virgin Islands beat Guyana earlier in the day.
But that’s not what the near miracle in Road Town will be remembered for, not after Barbados gave the hosts and tournament favourites the fright of their life in one furious and utterly unbelievable 27-6 run.
The home crowd themselves couldn’t believe it, having gone completely silent while being drowned out by two mere Bajan supporters in ten minutes of complete shock.
And this was after the BVI were cruising with a 47-27 half-time cushion which stood steady as a 20-point margin (56-36) midway through the third quarter.
However, Charles Vanderpool started the most unsuspecting of runs with what seemed a harmless pair of free throws and a jumper, while Andre Lockhart’s furious on-ball pressure started to create some turnovers.
Keefe Birkett then shook off an early slump to drill back-to-back treys, before Ramon Simmons added one of his own to pull the visitors within single digits (61-52) heading into the fourth.
The run though, wasn’t done there, far from actually, as Lockhart continued to get his hands on every ball in his vicinity, leading to extra possessions that Barbados turned into two more treys including Birkett’s go-ahead bucket (63-62) with 7:23 minutes left.
It wasn’t all outside shots either, with BVI struggling to find an answer for their guests’ offence that religiously went through Marsh at the high post.
Randy George inevitably ended the slide with two lay-ups, only for Marsh to answer on successive baskets of his own – a monstrous alley-oop finish and an “and-one” put-back in the paint (68-66).
But the home team regained the lead just seconds later, and for good this time, as Halstead Chiverton and Rashid Cann split two treys between them while George scored twice for a 78-72 lead.
Barbados still didn’t give up the fight though, making the contest a two-possession game (78-74) with 35.5 seconds left. However, the refs failed to call a foul on Simmons’ three-point try, then Bridgeman let the ball slip through his hands on a certain uncontested lay-up moments later.
It was the dramatic finish to a game that looked all but over midway through the first quarter when George and Kennedy Bass paired for five straight transition buckets between them (19-8).
Bajan head coach Nigel Lloyd then tried about every line-up conceivable, pairing Lockhart and Jeremy Gill together for a brief one-minute spell before reverting to a “five” that featured three traditional post players on the floor.
And yet nothing worked, as the home team made every single pass in the post look like the start of their fast breaks after tipping the ball away from Barbados’ “bigs” and getting out in the open floor off those turnovers (29-12).
Barbados still refused to go away, with Bridgeman ending the rut via an off-balance runner before a Lockhart trey sparked a 12-5 run capped by another triple from Gill (34-24).
The surge would’ve been more too were it not for two successive and ungodly errors from the officials that all but stalled their momentum.
First, Gill wasn’t awarded free throws despite clearly getting fouled on his gather going towards the basket, then Barbados were wrongly penalised for a 24-second violation after one of Gill’s runners kissed off the glass and the front of the ring.
Marsh ended with a game-high 21 points, Birkett finished with 12, while Simmons added 11 and Lockhart chipped in with 11 assists. George led the hosts with 19 points, while Chiverton and Bass scored 15 and 14 points, respectively.