USA Holds Off Dominican Republic For 77-76 Win
Oct. 26, 2011 • Guadalajara, Mexico
Lance Thomas (Austin Toros/Duke ‘10) posted a double-double of 15 points and 16 rebounds to pace the USA offensive and rebounding efforts, but it was Marcus Lewis’ (Tulsa 66ers/Oral Roberts ‘09) two blocked shots in the game’s final 12 seconds that earned the USA a 77-76 victory over the Dominican Republic in both teams opening game Wednesday night at the CODE Dome in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“Well, we had just turned the ball over and I just wanted to get back on defense,” remarked Lewis on his game saving blocked shots. “I took like three steps and the next thing I knew I was like ‘oh man, he’s right next to me.’ So I decided that I was going to go ahead and try get it and the next thing I knew I got the block. I didn’t think I was going to get it that easy, but it was pretty easy to get. It was a clean block. I heard the crowd complain but I didn’t touch him, I got all ball.
“I knew they were going to No. 15 (Martinez),” continued Lewis about his block on the last second shot attempt. “I knew he was either going to use a pump fake or try and shake me off one way. So he went right and I stayed down; he turned the other way and at first I just kept my hand up there and when he jumped for the jumper I got all ball.”
Falling behind 15-7 early in the first quarter after the Dominican Republic reeled off an 11-0 offensive run, the U.S. fought the rest of the game and refused to let a win slip through its hands.
Tied 20-20 after the first quarter thanks to a basket from Lewis just before the horn, both team struggled to score in the second quarter. The Dominicans outscored the USA 9-2 over the final 3:17 of the second stanza and grabbed command 37-29 at halftime.
The USA showed renewed energy right from the start of the third quarter and outscored the Dominican Republic 11-2 to grab a 40-39 lead. The two squads traded punches the remainder of the third and the Dominican Republic took a 57-54 lead into the final period.
Tied at 69 with 4:11 remaining after Thomas put back an offensive rebound, one of his game high 10 offensive boards, Donald Sloan (Reno Bighorns/Texas A&M ‘10) penetrated and scored in the lane, then Jerome Dyson (Tulsa 66ers/Connecticut ‘10) finished a beautiful reverse layup to push the Americans ahead 73-69. Following one free throw by the Dominican Republic, Dyson scored on another drive and reverse layup to push the U.S. was ahead 75-70.
But the Dominican Republic squad wasn’t conceding, and after back-to-back baskets by center Yack Michael Martinez, the Dominican Republic was back within two, 76-74, with 1:31 to play.
Following a U.S. turnover on a push to the rim, the Dominican Republic got out on the break and appeared on the verge of laying in the basketball to tie the score.
In stepped Lewis and he not only cleanly blocked guard Juan Coronado Gil’s attempted lay in, but he controlled the ball and was immediately fouled.
Missing his first free throw, Lewis made the second and upped the USA advantage to 77-74 with just 12.3 ticks left on the clock.
Martinez, who finished with a game high 31 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Dominican Republic, missed a jumper, however, Elys Manuel Guzman Garcia managed to come up with the ball and was fouled as he scored off his offensive board with 4.6 seconds showing on the clock.
Garcia missed his free throw try that would have evened the score, and in the scramble for the ball, it rolled out of bounds off the U.S., giving the Dominican Republic one last chance with just 1.4 seconds showing.
To no one’s surprise, the Dominican Republic went to Martinez in the middle of the lane, his shot was expertly defended again by Lewis and when he blocked the game winning attempt right before the buzzer, the Americans had the critical win.
“Those were big time blocks, game winning blocks, and he (Lewis) was in foul trouble and for him to still have that mentality of ‘I’m not giving up a shot’ or ‘I’m not going to give up a layup’, those two big blocks won the game for us,” said Thomas.
All 12 USA players scored in the balanced effort. While Thomas led the team in scoring and rebounding, Dyson finished with 12 points, Sloan and Moses Ehambe (Iowa Energy/Oral Roberts ‘08) each added eight points, while Justin Dentmon (Texas Legends/Washington ‘09) and Leo Lyons (Austin Toros/Missouri ‘09) scored seven points apiece.
The Americans, who turned the ball over just four times in the second half to finish with 16 total turnovers, outrebounded the Dominican Republic 24-to-9 in the second half to winning the battle on the glass 41 to 26, with 20 of those coming on the offensive end.
“That’s a really good team, but I was just really proud of how our guys just kept battling, battling. We weren’t great in the first half but we just stayed with it,” said USA Pan American Games and Tulsa 66ers head coach Nate Tibbetts.
The USA continues preliminary play Thursday facing two-time defending Pan American Games champion Brazil in a 9 p.m. (EDT) contest.
“Brazil is a good team,” commented Tibbetts. “They’re extremely well coached and they got some big guys and we’re just going to have to battle. We’re going to have to be a little bit more sharp defensively and after we watch some film I think we’ll be prepared.”
In an opening day that saw plenty of down to the wire games, Canada (1-0) rallied from 15 down to knock off Argentina (0-1) 83-79 in overtime; defending champion Brazil (1-0) outlasted Uruguay (0-1) 80-71, and in the day’s final contest, Puerto Rico (1-0)slipped past host Mexico (0-1) 73.69.
Assisting Tibbetts on the USA bench are Tulsa 66ers coaching staff members Jermaine Byrd and Dale Osbourne.