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Bahamas earns berth in Paris Olympic basketball qualifiers

Tim Bontemps, ESPNAug 20, 2023, 11:49 PM ETThe Bahamian men’s basketball team, led by Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton and Suns guard Eric Gordon, delivered the country’s biggest victory in the sport Sunday, defeating Argentina 82-75 to win a spot in one of next summer’s qualifying tournaments for the Paris

Bahamas earns berth in Paris Olympic basketball qualifiers

  • Tim Bontemps, ESPNAug 20, 2023, 11:49 PM ET

The Bahamian males’s basketball workforce, led by Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield, Phoenix Suns heart Deandre Ayton and Suns guard Eric Gordon, delivered the nation’s greatest victory within the sport Sunday, defeating Argentina 82-75 to win a spot in considered one of subsequent summer time’s qualifying tournaments for the Paris Olympic Video games.

The Bahamas, whose head coach is Golden State Warriors assistant Chris DeMarco, outscored Argentina 23-12 within the fourth quarter to drag out the win — the workforce’s second in 5 days towards the hosts — in entrance of a feisty dwelling crowd.

“That is one thing that is been years within the making,” DeMarco, who has been the workforce’s coach since 2019, informed ESPN in a cellphone interview. “I am so happy with our gamers for specializing in basketball and staying collectively and the sacrifices they made. I imply, this is not simple. That is everybody’s offseason. They are not coming dwelling. Argentina hosted this factor. We needed to beat them on their dwelling courtroom twice. The trouble from everybody concerned, gamers, workers, assist workers … it is unimaginable.

“I’ve no different phrases for it.”

The Bahamas has by no means certified for males’s basketball in both the Olympics or the FIBA World Cup. However by profitable the qualification event in Argentina, the place the Bahamians defeated Cuba and Argentina in group play earlier than beating Uruguay Saturday forward of a second win over the hosts Sunday night time, they’ll now have an opportunity to earn their first journey to the Olympics subsequent summer time.

After pretty snug wins in every of their first three video games in Argentina, nevertheless, Sunday’s championship sport was something however. It was a nip-and-tuck affair for a lot of the night time, with Argentina main by 4 initially of the fourth quarter, and once more retaking the lead with underneath 2 minutes to go.

However the Bahamas switched defenses to go to a zone that flummoxed Argentina’s offense, which basically scored solely off Bahamian turnovers over the sport’s remaining minutes, and Gordon — who formally made his one-time swap from representing the US, which he did when he received gold within the 2010 World Cup, solely earlier this month — took care of the remaining.

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He completed with 27 factors, hitting two step-back 3s inside the ultimate 92 seconds — together with one with 20 seconds to go that put the Bahamas up by 5 and all however ended the sport — to seal the win on an evening when Ayton and Hield mixed to go 10-for-31 from the sphere.

However DeMarco praised Ayton, who completed with 21 rebounds and performed 38 minutes, for his selfless play in the course of the event in what was the No. 1 decide’s first time taking part in for the nationwide workforce since DeMarco took over. Hield, in the meantime, has been a big a part of this system all through the previous a number of years, participating each time he has been capable of.

“These guys all knew one another, however we needed to come collectively as a workforce, and discover what works for us,” DeMarco mentioned. “The sport is not performed on paper. I believe typically individuals are like, ‘Oh, he is within the NBA. They are going to win.’ It is not like that. FIBA’s a unique sport. It takes so much to come back into an opponent’s health club, of their nation, in a hostile atmosphere and be as resilient as we had been tonight.”

The duty forward of the Bahamas to truly make the Olympics stays steep. Profitable this event ensures solely that the Bahamian nationwide workforce will now earn considered one of 24 spots throughout 4 automated qualification tournaments subsequent summer time.

These 24 groups will probably be break up into 4 teams of six, with the winners of every of them incomes the 4 wild-card spots for the 12-team area in Paris.

The opposite eight berths will probably be comprised of France, which routinely qualifies because the host nation, adopted by seven groups that can qualify by way of their efficiency on this yr’s FIBA World Cup, which begins Friday.

Nonetheless, that does not diminish the accomplishment of profitable this event — and, notably, the place the Bahamas received it. Argentina is without doubt one of the world’s nice basketball powers. It’s the solely nation apart from the US that has received a gold medal in males’s basketball since skilled gamers started taking part within the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when the Dream Group steamrollered its solution to gold.

The Argentinians additionally received bronze 4 years later and the silver medal on the 2019 World Cup, and have a roster that at the moment options a number of gamers who’ve performed within the NBA.

However the Bahamian workforce — which needed to take three flights to achieve its vacation spot in Argentina, and whose start line guard, Lourawls Nairn, is an assistant coach with Bowling Inexperienced and performed Sunday after tweaking his shoulder in Saturday’s win over Uruguay — managed to do the inconceivable, defeating the hosts twice within the span of 5 days, to place this nation able to do one thing it by no means has earlier than.

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“It was simply a very long time coming, man,” DeMarco mentioned. “To go from the place we had been at to have an opportunity, clearly subsequent summer time, to make the Olympics and hold constructing this factor and hold constructing Bahamas basketball usually.

“There is a ton of expertise — not simply within the males’s sport and the ladies’s facet as properly, and within the junior applications — and we need to showcase that.”

Different pre-qualifying event winners Sunday included Cameroon, Bahrain, Croatia and Poland.

Cameroon was an 80-74 winner over Senegal to win in Nigeria; Bahrain completed 5-0 in a event in Syria; Croatia defeated Turkey in one other remaining; and Poland outlasted Bosnia and Herzegovina 76-72 for its qualifying berth.

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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