Bahamas lock in to hold off Finland in opener

Ayton, Hield and Edgecombe combine for 63 points to get Bahamas first over the line in Valencia.

VALENCIA (Spain) – Bahamas opened up the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Valencia with an 96-85 victory over Finland

They locked in on defense in the second half, conceding only 13 points in the the third period as they take the first steps towards the Semi-Finals in Group B – surviving a late scare in the process.

The turning point

Bahamas set the tone early with a 7-0 run, which was fueled entirely by their star trio, but Finland hung around and eventually made a move of their own in the second with a 16-4 spell that saw Mikael Jantunen and Edon Maxhuni get hot from beyond the arc.

The gap soon hit 12 points in the third off the back of a four-point play from Maxhuni. Then came a pivotal Bahamas takeover at both ends of the floor: Buddy Hield brought the offense with eight quick points, and the collective effort on defense saw -12 turn into +8.

Hield finished the game with 6 three-pointers – tied for second-most in an OQT game since 2008 – for 24 points while also collecting 6 rebounds.

There appeared to be no way back, but Finland made a late run that forced Eric Gordon into coming up with a clutch response inside the final minute.

TCL Player of the Game

VJ Edgecombe stepped up with 20 points on his competitive senior debut for the national team, and showed his full confidence with the play of the game.

The 18-year-old was just one point shy of tying the record for most points scored in an OQT game since 2008 as New Zealand’s Tai Webster scored 21 against Angola in 2012.

Stats don’t lie

Finland only had three turnovers by half-time – including zero in the second quarter – but by the end of the third that number had multiplied by four, as their opponents took advantage. Bahamas also scored 38 of their points in the paint, with a 57-percent accuracy from inside the arc.

Bottom line

Bahamas had to weather the Finnish storm in the middle periods, but hit their stride when they needed to, and had enough to see out an opening win – and that’s all that matters in a tournament like this. Another win tomorrow will see them fly into the Semi-Finals.

For Finland, there were plenty of signs of encouragement to take into what is now a do-or-die encounter with Poland, but they also missed the experience of captain Sasu Salin, who did not play – on top of the key absence of star Lauri Markkanen this week.

They said

“We had to grind it out. We stayed together and figured it out. Team basketball is a game of runs. I felt like the second half, the young guys picking it up on the defensive end which really changed the game for us. We were able to close the game out by doing the little things right.” Bahamas guard, Buddy Hield

“We stayed together at the right time. Finland is a great team, they are well coached and move the ball really well with a lot of shooting. I thought the players adjusted well.” Bahamas head coach, Chris Demarco

“Great first half from us, played very well together. We stayed in our plan, and made some shots. Second half we have to learn from that, we stopped being aggressive towards the basket – played more their game than ours.” Finland guard, Elias Valtonen

“Congrats to the Bahamas. They played their basketball and showed a big character in the second half. We had our moments. They got us quite slow in the third quarter and I think that was the main key for the win.” Finland head coach, Lassi Tuovi

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