The U.S. Virgin Islands’ senior men’s national team thought it had a chance of winning its opening game in the third window of the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers.
Kyle Landry ripped those hopes away in a heartbeat.
Landry nailed a jumper with one second remaining to give Canada a 95-93 victory over the USVI National Team on Wednesday night at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan.
“It was the little things, the little lapses,” USVI head coach Donald Bough said. “This is an unforgiving game. You play hard, you outplay them, and one or two lapses on defense can cost you.
“I just have to move on, tell the guys to forget this game and move on to the next one. We know in our hearts that we competed in this game, and had great options to win. But we’re not going to count this as a moral victory, because we’re here to win.”
Walter Hodge scored 28 points to lead four players in double figures for the U.S. Virgin Islands (1-3 in Group C). Ivan Aska added 22 points and eight rebounds before fouling out, Laron Smith had 15 points and eight boards, and Deon Edwin had 12 points.
Aaron Best led Canada (2-1 in Group C) with 28 points. Anthony Bennett added 17 points and eight rebounds, and Kadre Gray had 11 points.
Landry’s only points of the night came after the U.S. Virgin Islands fought back from a nine-point deficit midway through the period to lead by three points with less than a minute remaining.
Phil Scrubb’s 3-pointer capped an eight-point run that put Canada ahead 84-75 with 6 minutes, 26 seconds left in the quarter. But the USVI fought back to tie the game twice, then pull ahead 93-90 on Hodge’s 3-pointer with 54 seconds left.
Scrubb then tied the game again at 93-all with another 3-pointer with 46 seconds left, and the USVI followed that by turning the ball over on an offensive foul by Hodge 15 seconds later.
After a timeout, Bennett found Landry for the game winner less than three feet from the basket.
• Despite getting off to a slow start, the U.S. Virgin Islands actually outshot Canada, both in percentage (45.6% to 38.6%) and in raw numbers (31 of 68, to 27 of 70). But the Canadians had a distinct edge on 3-pointers, making 13 of 39 (33.3%) to 5 of 18 for the USVI (27.8%).
• The Canadiens also made their free throws at a significantly better clip than the U.S. Virgin Islands — 28 of 29 (96.6%) to 26 of 43 by the USVI (60.5%).
The USVI National Team went into Wednesday night’s game with two players — guard Kyle Clarke and forward Jalal Johnson — sidelined due to the tournament’s COVID-19 protocols.
According to David Edole, the Virgin Islands Basketball Federation’s general secretary, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests done on Clarke on Wednesday morning was flagged for review.
That put the entire USVI team on lockdown in their hotel rooms while Clarke and Johnson, who was a “close contact,” underwent COVID-19 antibody testing. However, Johnson failed the followup test and both were held out Wednesday.
Clarke will have to sit out the entire tournament, while Johnson will be evaluated by medical personnel before being allowed to play, according to Edole.
The AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers games in San Juan and Cali, Colombia, are being played under a “bubble,” with only the teams and game personnel allowed into the arenas, and only after undergoing PCR testing.
Cuban team out
This weekend’s FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers underwent another schedule change after Cuba’s national team announced that it would not be able to make the trip to San Juan.
According to a release by the Cuban Basketball Federation on Feb. 12, the team withdrew due to the current COVID-19 pandemic in the country, which has had 40,765 cases and 277 deaths in an island of 11.3 million people.
Federation officials said in the release that the rising number of cases impacted training, as well as limiting the players available to play in this weekend’s games. It also led to difficulties in securing visas for all members of the Cuban National Team’s players and personnel.
Cuba was scheduled to play three games — two against Canada, and a rematch against the Dominican Republic. All three games could play a role in determining which three teams from Group C advance to AmeriCup 2022.
According to a statement from FIBA Americas, which is staging the Qualifiers, the status of the three games “will be decided at a later stage.”
The U.S. Virgin Islands National Team takes on group frontrunner Dominican Republic at 2 p.m. Friday, then has a rematch against Canada at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.