TOLUCA, MEXICO – The Virgin Islands, playing in a do-or-die situation, held on to defeat the Dominican Republic, 102-92, Thursday in the Centro Basket Tournament.
Jameel Heywood led a balanced scoring attack and Leon Trimmingham stabilized the defense as the Virgin Islands held after the Dominican Republic made a strong fourth-quarter charge.
"We knew this was a must-win situation," said Trimmingham, a veteran overseas pro who had three blocks to go along with 12 points.
The Virgin Islands improved to 1-1 with one game remaining against Honduras. The Dominican Republic, which beat Honduras on Wednesday, is also 1-1. Puerto Rico beat Honduras on Thursday night in the bracket’s other game.
The top two teams in the bracket will advance to the semifinals to play the top teams in the other bracket.
Heywood, a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma, gave the Virgin Islands a boost in the early going. He scored several inside baskets as the V.I. took a 26-22 lead after the first quarter. The V.I. led 54-36 at the half and 80-59 after three quarters.
The Dominican Republic, led by Jack Martinez’s 25 points, came charging back. At one point, the D.R. came to with seven points with less than a minute remaining.
Each time, the Dominican Republic made a charge, either Trimmingham, Cuthbert Victor, Kevin Sheppard or Calvert White would make a big shot. Victor and White finished with 16 points. Sheppard had 12.
"We knew they would make a charge at the end so we had to be ready," said Trimmingham, a Central High graduate. "No team is going to give up. You are not playing for your team, you are playing for your country."
The Dominican Republic came with 14 with 3:30 remaining. Victor’s long-range 3-pointer gave the V.I. a 94-77 lead with 3:15 remaining. The shot appeared to have sealed the game. The Dominican Republic outscored the V.I. 15-5 to come within 99-92 with 30 seconds remaining.
"We beat a good team," said V.I. coach Tevester Anderson. "We stressed playing tough defense and we played tough defense today."
The Virgin Islands contested every Dominican Republic shot, unlike it did in the tournament opener against Puerto Rico. The Virgin Islands players complained about the high-altitude and the loss of breath against Puerto Rico. On Thursday, an oxygen tank was present on the V.I. bench.
The VI also had the presence of Alphonso Niles, who had to sit out against Puerto Rico. The tournament technical committee questioned Nileś eligibility because he was born in New York to V.I. parents. The V.I. federation was able to obtain the birth certificate of Niles mother from his grandmother on St. Thomas.


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