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Bajans miss out on Final Four

JUSTIN MARVILLE, [email protected]

Bajans miss out on Final Four

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So much for making that Final Four. Barbados seem certain of missing the semi-finals yet again, missing five of their last seven free throws in the dying moments of yesterday’s 62-55 defeat to Antigua at the FIBA AmeriCup Caribbean Basketball Pre-Qualifier in Suriname.

It was the second defeat in three games for the Bajans, who fell behind group leaders Haiti (2-0) and Antigua (3-0) for the pool’s two automatic semi-final berths with one game remaining.

The result guaranteed that the former two-time champs will finish no higher than fifth position for the sixth straight tournament after ruling the roost as recently as 2004.

But they looked certain of a Final Four spot this time, having led by as many as nine points (45-36) following Andre Lockhart’s third-quarter explosion. With his team facing a 33-28 deficit, the overseas-based pro guard took the game by the scruff of its neck, erupting for 14 straight points on four treys and a running banker to fuel a 17-3 rally.

However, his opposite number Lennox McCoy took the game right back to him, attacking Lockhart off the dribble and sending him to the bench with his third foul. As a result, Antigua scored the last ten points to close the third quarter as part of a 13-0 run (49-45) that gave them back the lead early in the ensuing fourth.

Vivian Destin then put his head down too, and got to the ring for a pair of layups to give the Antiguans a five-point cushion (56-51).

Barbados had a chance to get right back in the contest, though, as captain Jeremy Gill was fouled on a deep three-point attempt with the shot clock winding down. But Gill had to be subbed out with a hurt left elbow, and Zahir Motara shockingly missed all three free throws and a chance to make the contest a one-possession game.

Lockhart and Haynes then also blew free throws that would’ve tied the game but left Barbados still trailing 56-54 with 1:33 remaining.

However, Barbados refused to get back in transition, allowing McCoy to beat them down the floor for a decisive fast-break layup just moments later.

The Bajans still had a chance to tie, as Mark Bridgeman found himself wide open in the corner with 32 seconds left to play. His long-range jumper hit front iron, though, and Antigua duly closed out the contest at the line.

At least Barbados were lucky not to have been blown out early after managing just two points within the game’s first five minutes under a slew of turnovers. Keefe Birkett turned the tide off the bench, overcoming his earlier shooting woes to drill two treys in succession to end the first quarter.

Charles Vanderpool actually got the rally started with a friendly roll on his jumper before Justin Pile and Zahir Motara both split free throws to reduce the deficit to just one (16-15).

Antigua threatened again to build a significant lead after Cohen Desouza was gifted a pair of baseline drives until Akeem Marsh answered with a strong “and-one” finish and Jeremy Gill got to the hole off a nifty euro-step move.

Birkett followed with a baseline runner and two free throws to sandwich Marsh’s hook that kept the Bajans within striking distance (31-28).

Lockhart finished with 18 points and Birkett scored 13, while Destin led Antigua with 15 points. (JM)