By William Ysaguirre
No fans were present to cheer on the Dangriga Warriors as they won the fourth and last berth as the No.4 seed in the National Elite Basketball League playoffs: 73-68 over the Yellow Pages Hurricanes of Belize City.
The game was played at the University of Belize Gymnasium in Belmopan on Tuesday night. It was a sombre end to an exciting showdown at the Stann Creek Ecumenical Auditorium in Dangriga on Saturday night, which had been interrupted by an ugly incident when the Warriors. The were up 60-56 with 6 minutes 58 seconds left on the clock.
Eyewitness reports say an over-exuberant and clearly inebriated fan stumbled onto the court, and when one of the three game referees moved to shoo him off another over-enthusiastic fan assaulted the referee and the police had to intervene.
The police were present to provide security as is normal practice at all NEBL games, and the officers present quickly surrounded the referees to ensure their safety and escorted them off the court.
Unconfirmed reports say that one fan was so incensed that he went into his pocket as if to draw a weapon and he had to be physically restrained by others with cooler heads around him.
No one was arrested, no one was criminally charged, and no police report was filed on the incident, which could have very easily exploded into something much more serious.
The Hurricanes’ management was understandably peaved, since they market their games well and have developed a considerable fan base in Belize City, where their home games play to packed audiences.
Two busloads of fans had accompanied the Hurricanes to the game, including women and children, for what was intended to be wholesome family entertainment.
When the NEBL ethics committee reviewed the incident, they ruled that the game should be continued at a neutral venue, the UB gym, with no fans allowed; and that the Warriors should foot the bill for all additional expenses incurred by the Hurricanes in terms of transportation, food, refreshment, etc.
Despite the absence of fans, the Hurricanes came out storming; as Ty Bradley drained in a long 3-pointer to take over the lead. But the Warriors were in it to win it; with Daniel Nolberto scoring 21 pts, and dealing out three assists, while Edgar Mitchell finished with 17 pts, three boards and 3 steals; as they gained a 2-point lead with 20 seconds left on the clock.
The Hurricanes got the break for a 3-pointer that might have given them the lead, but missed; and after that the Warriors maintained possession of the ball and stepped to the free throw line when fouled to extend their lead.
The Warriors’ Brandon Flowers scored 11 pts, 9 boards, David Guzman added 8 pts, six boards, while Macario Augustine tossed in 5 pts on the putback from 12 boards.
Ty Bradley led the Hurricanes with 27 pts, four boards, team captain Winston Pratt added 15 pts, eight boards; and Earl “Bolo” Johnson and Brian “Brybo” White added seven points each.
The Warriors travel to San Ignacio on Friday night, where they will take on the top-ranked Cayo Western Ballaz at the Sacred Heart College Auditorium for a two game series, with the Ballaz having the home court advantage for both games.