There was little joy at the after party in San Ignacio as Cayo basketball fans lamented the top-seeded Cayo Western Ballaz’s 64-77 loss to defending champions, the San Pedro Tigersharks, in the first game of the National Elite Basketball League championship finals at the Sacred Heart College auditorium on Friday night, June 5.
It was a tale of four quarters, and the Ballaz dominated the first half, with the NEBL’s Most Valuable Player of the regular season, Richard Troyer, draining in three 3-pointers to lead the Ballaz with 19pts, 17 boards for a 17-16 lead in the first quarter. Elvis Usher Jr followed suite with two 3-pointers for 14 pts, and Giovanni Lennan took the court in the second quarter to add 11pts, four boards; as the Ballaz took command of the ball game: 35-28 at intermission.
The Ballaz seemed to receive an inordinate number of free throws, with several technical fouls called against the Tigersharks; but the Ballaz’ shooting percentage was miserable, they scored only 18 of 37 free throws. The Tigersharks tenacious defense also forced the Ballaz into 18 turnovers, from which the visitors scored 15pts; while the Tigersharks made only six turnovers, from which the Ballaz gained only seven points.
While the Ballaz were shooting from long range outside the 3-point circle, Darwin ‘Puppy” Leslie led the Tigersharks’ counterattack, driving to the rim for 27 pts, four rebounds. Raul Roches added 13pts, five board and James Milton – 10pts five boards, in similar fashion. In all the Tigersharks scored 42pts in the paint while the Ballaz only scored 22pts in the paint. NEBL rookie Douglas Valley also hit a 3-ponter to add eight pints and give the Tigersharks their first lead 55-53 at the end of the third quarter.
The Tigersharks now scented blood and never let up their attack with Andrew Ortiz driving to the rim for two monster dunks to tally nine points, also snagging 12 boards; the Tigersharks out-rebounded the Ballaz 36-33 and also scored 10pts on second chance attempts from rebounds.
Ballaz’ Ivan Flowers scored seven points for the Ballaz and Kurt “Chengo” Burgess grabbed eight boards, while scoring five points; but their star rookie Akeem Watters had a disappointing performance, managing only one lay-up and two free throws.
The Edwards brothers, Tyrone “Mission” and Ashton, scored five points each for the Tigersharks to clinch the 77-64 win.
The Ballaz now need a win in the second final at the Angel Nunez auditorium in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye on Sunday afternoon, June 7, to take the series to a third game, but the prospect seems unlikely. The Tigersharks are now set to clinch their second NEBL championship, as they have never lost on their home court!