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Coronavirus postpones NEBL season heading into playoff stretch

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Posted: Saturday, March 14, 2020. 9:10 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: As the National Elite Basketball League (NEBL) approaches the halfway point of the season, storylines are starting to develop for the playoff stretch.

But they are now on hold pending the suspension of the season, due to COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) concerns. The Government has discouraged, but not ordered the cancellation of, mass gatherings.

The NEBL is the first major sporting league to announce changes to its schedule, aping mass closures in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.

This week should have seen part two of regional rivalry action with Hurricanes hosting Defenders at the Civic and Bandits facing Verdes in Belmopan; while Dangriga host Punta Gorda and Orange Walk take on San Pedro today, Saturday.

In related news, the Digi Belize City Defenders and San Pedro Tiger Sharks, off last week having already played each other twice, have all but locked up playoff spots with gaudy 6-1 and 5-2 records respectively.

Now it is a matter of settling the final two contenders and Verdes, Orange Walk Running Rebels and Benny’s Belize Hurricanes made their cases – the former on the court, the latter in controversy.

It was not even close between Hurricanes and visiting Belmopan Bandits, as the capital’s men continued to skid with a horrific 104-60 defeat. A poor interior defense was punished by import Shuler Dominic’s game-high 18 rebounds, 8 offensive and 8 defensive. He added 8 points and 4 assists.

Ashton Edwards had 17 points and 5 rebounds off the bench and Glency Lopez added 15 for Hurricanes, now 3-2. After a promising 1-1 start against Griga Dream Ballers and the Punta Gorda Panthers, the Belmopan Bandits have skidded to the cellar with 5 consecutive losses and are now 1-5. Khalil Jabbie led all scorers with 26 points but the only other Belmopan scorer in double figures was Richard Smith with 11.

On Saturday night visiting Orange Walk Running Rebels earned their first road win at Punta Gorda Panthers 86-74 to move to 4-3 on the season. They were led by Dajuan Cooper who finished the night with 22 points and 11 rebounds while Sydney Bradley tallied 11 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists and Matthew Young posted 11 points and 9 rebounds. Roger Reneau chipped in 10 points to go with 5 assists and 4 rebounds and Tyrie Orosco netted 10 points and grabbed 8 rebounds and Leon Jacob scored 10 points. Punta Gorda Panthers (1-6) was led by Travis Julien who had the game-high with 23 points to go with 12 rebounds while Nayib Casimiro had his season-high with 19 points and Jevonte Hughes tallied a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

And while Griga Dream Ballers won on the court Friday at Russel Chiste Garcia Auditorium in the cultural capital 86 – 73, the NEBL scoreboard shows a 73-69 defeat after D’Von Campbell’s 17 points were taken away. Campbell, per NEBL commissioner Karim Juan, officially needs his Belizean nationality documents to be considered Belizean despite marrying a Belizean in 2019. As a result both Griga’s wins against Hurricanes last week and Verdes this week were stripped on appeal to the League Appeal Committee. The Hurricanes game will be replayed at a later date.

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