USA Basketball E-National Team Falls to Dominican Republic in Conference Finals
Defending FIBA Esports Open North and Central America Conference champions, the USA Basketball E-National Team (4-2) fell to Dominican Republic (4-2) 2-1 in the best-of-three finals series on May 9. After dropping the first game 61-56, the USA forced a Game 3 with a dominating 60-47 victory but a dagger of a 3-pointer by the Dominicans with 3.3 seconds in the final game sealed a 55-52 win and conference championship for the islanders.
“Throughout the weekend we played well,” said USA captain Malik “OriginalMalik” Hobson (KNX Gaming/Detroit, Mich.). “But in the finals, no game, not game one, two or three, did I feel as if we played our best game at all.
“I do feel good overall with how we were able to come together. We had one week to prepare, which is unfortunate but it’s not an excuse. I feel as if we still should have won.”
In addition to OriginalMalik, the USA team is comprised of Alexander “Steez” Bernstein (76ers GC/Yorba Linda, Calif.); Rafel “Crush” Davis (Kings Guard Gaming/Bronx, N.Y.); Dayne “OneWildWalnut” Downey (76ers GC/Los Angeles, Calif.); Wendi “ALittleLady87” Fleming (Chattanooga, Tenn.); and Kimanni “Splashy” Ingram (Jazz Gaming/Sacramento, Calif.).
In the opening game, in which Splashy scored a game-high 31 points, the contest was even at 25-apiece at halftime. The U.S., trailing 42-40 late in the third quarter, closed out the stanza on a 5-0 spurt to hold a 45-42 edge heading into the fourth quarter. However, the Dominicans ripped off a 10-3 run to open the fourth to go ahead 52-48 and remained in the lead the rest of the way for the 61-56 victory.
The second game also was knotted at halftime, 21-all, but the second half was all USA. Outscoring the Dominican Republic 21-10 in the third quarter to take a 42-31 lead, the U.S. continued to hold off the islanders in the fourth quarter for the 60-47 win. Splashy again paced all scorers with 23 points and dished out 10 assists, while OneWildWalnut had a traditional double-double with 21 points and 13 boards.
The deciding third game saw the USA holding a 15-8 lead after the end of the first quarter and 27-25 edge at halftime. However, with the U.S. owning a 34-33 lead early in the third quarter, Dominican Republic hit back-to-back baskets to go ahead 38-34 and remained ahead 45-39 at the end of the third period. A 9-2 run to begin the final stanza put the USA back on top, 48-47, but the game remained a tight affair and was locked up a 52-all when the Dominicans drained the game-winning 3 with 3.3 seconds on the clock. Splashy scored a game-high 22 points and OneWildWalnut added 14 points and grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds in the loss.
“Whenever there is another FIBA Esports Open, I would definitely love to come back and play,” added OriginalMalik. “Honestly, this loss hurts more than any other loss I’ve ever had playing competitively. It definitely lights a fire under me, and I’d definitely love to play in this again.”
76ers Gaming head coach Jeff Terrell served as the coach/advisor for the 2021 USA E-National Team for the FIBA Esports Open III.
In all, the FIBA Esports III featured 60 national teams playing in eight regional conferences from April 16-May 9.
Two of the regional conferences – North and Central America and Europe -- were split into two divisions each, featuring current generation (PS4) and next generation (PS5) teams.
In the first FIBA Esports Open in which it participated, from Dec. 19-20, 2020, USA Basketball finished with a 7-1 record and claimed the title after defeating Dominican Republic 48-45 and 60-56 in the best-of-three championship series.