Posted: Monday, May 1, 2023. 5:31 pm CST.
By Glenn Tillett: As I drove to witness last Friday night’s Hurricanes vs Defenders mega clash at Da Civic by da Riva, a caller confirmed to me that there would be no Griga vs PG Panthers game. I was neither shocked nor surprised because I was already convinced PG would drop out of the competition, it was only a matter of when, not if.
There’s no point in rehashing the reasons why that franchise failed and another is failing except to once again point the finger of blame at the League’s team owners and their obdurate hard-headedness and narrow mindedness. The lack of a collective ethos to demand that sustainability be a #1 priority will yet kill the League as has happened in the past.
The realization that I was going to see the two best appointed and financially blessed teams play while PG was falling through the gaping disparity crack killed my vibe. Between them they were going to field maybe 15 American and Belizean-American players and we were to be treated to a level of play previously unseen in a Belizean competition, and I should be inspired by the consequences it portended.
But I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of dismay. It did not help that I saw Stanley Moody after I entered the stadium and we exchange pleasantries in passing. Once again, as I have had to many times I bit back the impulse to apologize to him because of an incident 45 years ago.
I am confident that the majority of you reading this do not know who Stanley Moody is. You know that Clinton Pulu Lightburn, arguably Belize’s greatest basketball player and now the BEBL’s icon but you may not know that the men are inextricably linked because 45 years ago the Belize National Basketball Association refused to let them play on our national team and we lost a game by a world-record margin in Medellin, Columbia.
The men had not played in our regular tournament here in Belize and so the petty officials used that as the excuse to keep them off the roster. I met Clinton as I was walking out with time clicking off the clock and the outcome not in doubt and we exchanged a few words. He quickly surmised that the Defenders hadn’t figured out the correct strategy until the second half and though they’d out-played the ‘Canes’ in the latter half, it had not been enough.
Once again I wondered when one of these teams or even the League would recruit the living legend but it probably won’t happen this season or even next season, even as a league consultant, his mind is a treasure chest of basketball knowledge.
Anyways, as I sat in the stands waiting on tip off while gobbling down a hot dog, I suddenly remembered that the lights had gone out on the then NEBL around this time 4 years ago as the pandemic descended. I remember deciding that I was NOT going to the Defenders vs Hurricanes game and I would not return to basketball until this year. The memory deepened my glum feelings.
I could see the ‘Canes’ latest import Nick Phillips who looked at least an imposing 6’ 8” or more while Defenders head coach Matt Champ had out his clipboard and was earnestly speaking with their latest greatest Fenton Bradley Jr.
I had been eagerly anticipating the mini-mites mega match-up of Coope vs Boogie, and Victor Eyan vs Lolo Dillard but from early it looked as though Lolo wasn’t his usual self. The entire Defenders looked a step slow and were having problems communicating and figuring out who was to do what which I thought strange,
Meanwhile the ‘Canes’ were playing with enthusiasm, even exuberance, lots of trash-talking and posing as they soon ran out to a big lead.
The contrast between the coaching staffs was instructive. Jamall Wagner laid back approach as well as that of his veteran senior assistants meant their newbie fourth assistant was always in the players faces doing the talking in the huddle.
I was also perplexed that a couple of the players seemed to have their own clique and only nominally paid attention to huddles.
Smiling runs the Defenders emphatically and has no problem berating any of his players, from his biggest star to the guy at the end of the bench and by half-time he was livid, hardly sitting down as he paced the sideline. Even the officials in their new matching white t-shirts were giving him those leery looks.
In the second half Darwin Puppy Leslie and Ty Bradley had started terrorizing the ‘Canes’ guards and backcourt, ratching up the tension between the teams and their fans. Puppy’s hard foul on Evans caused the latter to lose his temper momentarily and he had to be restrained while Puppy shrugged – a hard foul is legal.
Bynum Louriano was soon rocking the baby much to the consternation of some on the ‘Canes’ bench and the Defenders were creeping back into the game, but they ran out of time. They were still down 6-7 points with seconds to go as I departed. You could cut the tension with a knife and I figured there’d be some sort of fracas and I wasn’t in the mood for it.
Oh, there was also a new referee, or rather someone I hadn’t seen before either, but you know something? I like the guy and this crew, they kept the pot from boiling over even as they let the stew bubble and sizzle.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
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