by RENALDO DORSETT

A questionable travel call halted a late game run for team Bahamas and they never recovered down the stretch en route to an opening round tournament loss.

The Bahamas fell to the US Virgin Islands, 82-74, at the Men’s Centrobasket 2016 Championships yesterday in Panama City, Panama.

Deandre Ayton led the team with 16 points and 11 rebounds, Kentwan Smith with 13 points, Michael Carey finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Able Joseph added 10.

Leon Cooper’s jumper brought the Bahamas within two, 74-70, and after the Bahamas stopped the USVI on the ensuing possession, Cooper came down the court and converted what looked to be a fastbreak layup, but was called for a travel.

The momentum swing would see the USVI end the game on an 8-4 run in the final two minutes.

It was a slow start for team Bahamas who fell behind early with four turnovers in their first four possessions as the USVI took an early 7-0 lead. The Bahamas was outscored 21-10 in the first quarter.

Smith, one of three players returning from the 2014 Centrbasket team, said the reaction after the travel call and the sluggish start were the chief reasons behind the loss.

“The travel call went against us and I feel like after that happened a lot of guys dropped their heads instead of continuing to fight. When the substitutions came in we didn’t communicate with what we were doing so in some situations we had five people doing different things and that allowed them to get open shots,” he said, “When you come off the bench you have to be ready to help your team in any way you can and that’s what I tried to do. We came out slow and sluggish and that placed us at an early disadvantage. We just weren’t able to recover.”

Khalid Hart led the USVI with 18 points, Johnathan Gray added 16 and Giorgio Mulligan finished with 12.

Led by former NBA veteran and head coach Sam Mitchell, the USVI dressed just nine players.

“The Bahamas plays hard, those guys are fast, athletic, and we were very fortunate to win the game. If we didn’t build that early lead I don’t know if we would withstand that run. The first game is always the toughest,” he said, “We don’t have the depth but we have guys that can play multiple positions. We had training camp with six guys so we are used to the numbers. We use that as motivation.”

It was an offensive struggle for the Bahamas for much of the game as they shot 33 percent from the field and just 20 percent from three point range. They out rebounded the USVI 56-42 but scored just four more points in the paint.

The USVI led wire to wire in the contest and at one point led by as much as 16.

They ended the second quarter on an 8-2 run and led 35-27 at the half. Gray made four three pointers in the third to extend his team’s lead in the period and they took a 61-50 lead into the fourth.

Team Bahamas Assistant head coach, Norris Bain, said despite their diligent game-planning for the USVI, a team the Bahamas lost to in the 2015 CBC finals, the team faltered from the opening tip.

“We talked to the guys at halftime about placing a premium on ballhandling. There were too many unforced turnovers and mental lapses. We knew what the USVI would do, we knew the sets they would run. Our plan was to make Hodge and Rivera shooters, if they scored 40 then so be it and we would still win,” Bain said, “I don’t think we did a good enough job on defence and we had a lot of open looks we just didn’t knock down.If you’re going to win this tournament and move on you have to knock down open shots.”

The Bahamas will face Costa Rica today at 2:45pm local time.

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