Between these lines …
by Glenn Tillett
City fans left the Civic by Di Riva tonight either elated or feeling humiliated after watching the Belize City Digi Defenders thoroughly trash the Benny’s Hurricanes 83-69. For long stretches, in fact, from the first quarter, the gap was even larger as Digi raced out of the gate and never looked back.
The ‘Canes American and Belizean American imports, namely Jamell Harris, Jamaal Samuel, Alex Carcamo, and Darwin Carter may be taller and perhaps more talented, more experienced but tonight the speed, coordination and hard-charging style of the Digi ballers led by the superb Devin Daly and 2018 MVP Nigel Jones, was a tsunami from the get-go.
The game had more than a hint of a playoff atmosphere and despite Digi’s big 15-20 points lead enduring from the first quarter, both Matthew Smiling and Greg Moguel kept to a 9 man rotation. The as-usual late-arriving crowd after sitting on their hands for most of the first half, came alive in the third quarter when the Canes made a run
Digi took control early and set the tone with Luther Da Shane Page scoring the first 4 points following defensive and offensive rebounds, and assists from Mykeil Tzul and Shaquille Crawford, and two misses by Harris in the paint.
Thereafter it was off to the races for Digi who appeared superbly prepared, physically, mentally and emotionally, whilst the Hurricanes kept making mistakes, miscues and misfiring.
Samuel’s second jump shot brought the Canes within 3, 7-4 nearing the quarter’s midpoint but that would be as close as they would ever get. Digi responded with a 12-point run and closed the quarter 25-10.
The leviathan that should be the Hurricanes appeared to awake entering the third and trailing 54-33 when Moguel went to a three-guard lineup with Darwin Carter and Ian Rene mostly alongside either starter Ashton Edwards or Jamal Kelly whilst either Samuel, Carcamo or Harris got a breather. The guards’ energy and ability to play at pace worked and they closed the gap to 64-55 at the end of the third.
Digi’s backcourt play from Daly, Shaq Crawford and especially Tzul however, with some key efforts on the defensive end by Ty Bradley and Greg Rudon, enabled them to weather the run and pull away for the victory.
Mykeil Tzul was sensational hitting three of four timely three-pointers just when his team seemed to need it most adding the sauce to Nigel Jones cooking on both ends, a 22-point, 16 rebound effort.
The unsung hero though has to be Shane Page’s 10-point, 10 rebounds (and stellar defense) outing against the Hurricanes distinctly taller frontcourt.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Canes had closed within 5 points, 64-59 but then proceeded to misfire on layups, as well as two- and three-point shots. Page defense was the firewall that held the lead for them.
The Defenders came to play whilst it took the Canes an entire half to find a rhythm. It is their third slow start in as many games and trying to climb out of deep holes will continue to prove disastrous, especially on the road.
The Defenders will play hard, a characteristic of Matthew Smiling teams, particularly on the defensive end, from the get-go. Their backcourt is hardnosed and disruptive whilst the combination of Page, Daly and Jones will get theirs on the offensive end with an excellent inside-out offense.
It is regional weekend in the NEBL, out west Verdes quickly got out big against the Bandits and held on to win, whilst tonight Orange Walk’s Rebels will challenge San Pedro Tiger Sharks on the island. Both of their head coaches watched tonight’s game from the sidelines with great interest since they will play both of these teams again and even likely meet them in the playoffs.
Griga Dream ballers are hoping to get their first win at home tonight against their southern confederates the Punta Gorda Panthers. There is no team without a loss in the NEBL, and the question to be answered is how long will this era of parity continue to play out?