Two close games, and now two losses for the short-handed U.S. Virgin Islands’ senior men’s national team.
The USVI National Team overcame a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter of its FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifier game against the Dominican Republic, only to run out of gas in overtime Friday afternoon in a 103-99 loss in San Juan.
Walter Hodge had a game-high 27 points — one of four players to finish in double figures — and 12 assists for the U.S. Virgin Islands (1-4 in Group C) before fouling out late in overtime.
Ivan Aska also had a double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds, LaRon Smith added 18 points and Deon Edwin scored 16 points for the USVI.
“I’m proud of these guys,” U.S. Virgin Islands head coach Donald Bough said. “Knowing just the way we competed and sending the game into overtime, knowing that we did that with limited players. It forced a lot of the guys to step up.
“We had a couple shots that we could’ve capitalized on, but I’m not by any means chastising any of my players. I’m super-proud of them. They battled. We had options to win this game in many different ways.”
Victor Liz led five players in double figures for the Dominican Republic (4-1 in Group C) with 20 points. Michael Torres Cuevas had a double-double with 19 points and 11 assists, Angel Nunez added 13 points, and Adonys Henriquez and Juan Guerrero scored 12 points each.
The Dominican Republic looked to have broken away from the USVI in the third quarter, closing the period with a 17-5 run to lead 76-63 entering the final quarter.
However, after the D.R. had led by as many as 16 points early in the fourth, the U.S. Virgin Islands fought back to pull within three points, 94-91, with four seconds remaining.
That’s when Hodge made the play of the game — at the line for a pair of free throws, he made the first, then intentionally missed the second, coming up with the rebound and laying it in to tie the game and force overtime.
Hodge then nailed a 3-pointer 43 seconds into the extra period to put the USVI ahead, but Cuevas came up with two big baskets — a 3-pointer to tie the game at 99-all with 2 minutes, 46 seconds left; and a jumper with 1:53 left that put the Dominican Republic ahead to stay at 101-99.
Walter Hodge, U.S. Virgin Islands: The veteran guard had a career game for the USVI, with his second-highest scoring and assists totals in FIBA competition. He was just one off his career best in assists (13), set while playing for Inter Bratislava in the 2016 FIBA Europe Cup. His career scoring high — 28 points — came just two days ago in a loss to Canada.
Michael Torres Cuevas, Dominican Republic: Had 10 points and five assists in the fourth quarter and overtime in the D.R.’s victory. Cuevas shot 6 of 12 from the field (including 2 of 6 on 3-pointers) and 5 of 6 on free throws. He nearly had a triple-double, pulling down nine rebounds as well.
• The U.S. Virgin Islands may have lost a third player when starter Trivante Bloodman went down with a sprained ankle near the midway point of the first quarter.
Bloodman, a 6-1 point guard, came down wrong on his left ankle after making a layup with 6:37 left in the quarter, and came out of the game seconds later.
The USVI is already down two players, losing guard Kyle Clarke and forward Jalal Johnson before this weekend’s Qualifiers games began due to COVID-19 protocols.
Losing Bloodman would leave the USVI National Team’s roster with just eight active players for today’s game against Canada.
• The U.S. Virgin Islands shot 47.2% from the field (34 of 72) and made 5 of 17 3-pointers, while the Dominican Republic made 44% of its shots (37 of 84) and 10 of 33 on 3-pointers.
• The USVI National Team again left points on the court with another sub-par performance at the free throw line, making 26 of 43 (60.5%). The Dominican Republic wasn’t any better, however, going 19 of 27 (70.4%).
The U.S. Virgin Islands has its rematch against Canada at 2:30 p.m. today in San Juan.
They said it
“This doesn’t feel good. We did the best we can. I did everything I can. No excuse down the stretch. I’ve got to capitalize and make those buckets. Just being one of the leaders and holding myself accountable as one of the captains, I’ve got to make those plays. It’s tough, because I gave everything I can. But at the end, there’s no excuses.”
— U.S. Virgin Islands forward Ivan Aska, who missed all five of his shots (four of them layups) in the overtime period.