Pepsi National Elite Basketball League commence playoff round Print E-mail
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Thursday, 10 May 2018 00:00

The long anticipated Pepsi NEBL semi-finals rolled into Game 1 of its best-of-three series this past weekend.  Both match-ups were given a preview at the end of the season as both semi-final duo played each other at the end of the regular season.  With four formidable teams entering the playoffs this year, the championship is surely up for grabs where any of the 4 teams, who win this season will not come as a surprise. The level of the play in the NEBL is surely improving every season, as is evident by the quality of games.

Devin Daly and Smart Hurricanes Grabs Game 1

Two weeks ago Smart Belize Hurricanes travelled down south to take on Griga Dream Ballers and they came out with a huge road win, but even more important, they stole home court advantage for their semi-final matchup.  To add to their recent success, Hurricanes was coming off a great season finale versus their Belize City rivals, locking up a huge win and showcasing their talent in front of a jam-packed Belize Civic Centre. As if that was not enough good fortunes, last year’s Finals MVP, Devin Daly, landed in Belize on Friday to join the Smart Belize Hurricanes in their Game 1 match up versus Griga Dream Ballers.

This game surely lived up to its hype, as two great teams collided on the path to the 2018 NEBL Finals.  The visiting squad was able to demonstrate both poise and determination in a packed Civic Centre, to negate the early quivers on the road, taking a lead at the end of the first quarter 19 – 18.  Griga Dream Ballers was able to extend that lead, going into the half on top, 33 – 29.  Leading the attack for Griga was Daniel Nolberto, who finished the game with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists, while his counterpart Edgar Mitchell tallied 17 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds.  The third quarter remained evenly matched, as both teams were able to answer the offensive surge of their opponents. The game witnessed 15 lead changes and 6 ties and at the end of the third quarter the visiting team was clinging to a 1-point lead.  At the start of the fourth quarter the fate of the game quickly turned in favor of the home team, as aggressive defence pressure led to some costly turnovers that resulted in transition points, giving Smart Belize Hurricanes a lead that they would never relinquish.  Newcomer Devin Daly surely proved to be the “X” factor in the match, tallying the game high 23 points to go with 3 caroms and 2 assists.  Most Improved Player for the season, Glency Lopez finished the night with 16 points and 9 assists while Captain Akeem Watters’ stat line was 9 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds.  Smart Belize Hurricanes won the game with their whopping advantage of 41 – 4 bench points.

Game 2 now moves down south to the Russel “Chiste” Garcia Auditorium in Dangriga Town where Griga Dream Ballers must find a way to rally themselves out of their 3-game losing slump.  Two weeks ago, Smart Belize Hurricanes narrowly edged Griga Dream Ballers in Dangriga, and Hurricanes is currently riding a six-game winning streak.

San Pedro bites first, continues with dominance on the island

In the other semi-final game DigiCell Belize City Defenders traveled to San Pedro to take on the defending sub champions, San Pedro Tiger Sharks.  These two teams were able to split their regular season match-up, with both teams winning at home. They played two weeks ago in San Pedro and it was a hotly contested game, despite the fact that Darwin “Puppy” Leslie sat out that game to nurse an injury.  Of the two losses that San Pedro faced, one was at the hands of Defenders.

The game started out with both teams trying to establish their dominance and at the end of the first quarter, the home squad, San Pedro Tiger Sharks had a 21 – 17 lead. The visitors continued to rally, which game them a 45 – 42 edge going into the half time break. Captain Darwin “Puppy” Leslie was the scoring leader for DigiCell Belize City Defenders, tallying 21 points and 5 rebounds, as he kept his team within range to strike in the fourth quarter. Regular season MVP notched another double-double, finishing with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Francis Arana had a huge game with 16 points and 7 dimes. In the third quarter San Pedro Tiger Sharks were able to jump out to an 11 point lead, 69 – 58, and they established a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter. However, the visiting team had one more rally in them, cutting the deficit to 2 points in the waning seconds of the game, falling short on the buzzer, as they failed to execute and hit the shot that would have sent the game to over-time. Top scorer for San Pedro Tiger Sharks was big man, Martevuius Adams, who had the game high of 22 points and 12 rebounds. Jihad Wright had a huge game, padding the stats sheet and almost recording his first triple-double in his NEBL career, tallying 21 points, 10 boards, 8 assists, 6 steals and 5 blocked shots, while Emory Bennett Jr. and Raul Roches finished with 13 and 12 points respectively, and they both had 7 rebounds each.  The game saw 13 lead changes and 6 ties, while San Pedro had the 27 – 18 advantage on points off turnovers.

The playoff games will continue this coming weekend with two more games on Friday, May 11. In the game scheduled for the Belize Civic Centre at 9:00 pm Digicell Belize City Defenders will do battle with the San Pedro Tiger Sharks, while at the Russel “Chiste” Garcia Auditorium in Dangriga Town at 9:15 pm Griga Dream Ballers will go up against the Smart Belize Hurricanes.