SAN JUAN — The U.S. Virgin Islands’ women’s national basketball team was able to close out the 2021 FIBA Women’s AmeriCup tournament with a victory in Puerto Rico.
The USVI National Team handily defeated the 85th-ranked El Salvador team 85-44 in group play at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan on Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re a little relieved that we took care of business [Tuesday] and gave ourselves an opportunity to advance in the tournament to the next round,” USVI head coach Tajama Abraham-Ngongba told The Daily News.
“We did the best job … of putting together all the different things we’ve talked about in terms of chemistry, looking for each other and making that extra pass, and bringing more defensive energy and pressure. We also wanted to take pride in outworking people on the boards. We finally did a better job of putting all of those things together.”
The 49th-ranked U.S. Virgin Islands’ win — its only one in four Group A games — gave it the group’s last berth in the tournament’s elimination round. Canada (4-0) took the top spot, followed by Brazil (3-1) and Colombia (2-2).
However, the USVI’s excitement may be short lived — its opponent in Thursday’s quarterfinals will be the top-ranked United States, led by St. Thomas native and two-time All-American forward Aliyah Boston.
Anisha George had a double-double — a game-high 22 points and 14 rebounds — to lead four players scoring in double figures for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Natalie Day also had a double-double with 13 points and 16 rebounds, Imani Tate added 18 points and Taylor Jones 14 points.
Emily Tevez led El Salvador (0-4) with 14 points. Aida Gonzalez added 12 points and Kimberly Villalobos had 10 points.
The third quarter: The USVI already had the game well in hand, leading 42-28 at the halftime break, but they really put things away in the second half, keyed by Tate (12 second-half points) and Jones (nine points).
The third period was key to that, as the U.S. Virgin Islands held El Salvador to just one field goal (in 15 attempts) and outscored the Salvadorans 20-6 in more than doubling its lead (62-34, 28 points) by the end of the quarter.
“In any game you play, the third quarter is always the most important,” Tate said. “You want to come out and give that fight that you had in the first [half] and bring it into the second [half]. That’s what we had to do and we did it.”
Anisha George, U.S. Virgin Islands: The 6-foot-2 center, who plays pro ball for Helios in Switzerland, had her best game of the tournament — and at the right time. She made 9 of 18 shots — all but one from three feet and in — as well as had three blocked shots.
Emily Tevez, El Salvador: The 5-9 forward, who played college ball at Cal State-Los Angeles and California’s Notre Dame de Namur, made three of the Salvadorans’ five 3-pointers, and also had a team-best seven rebounds.
• A big key to the U.S. Virgin Islands’ win was in its shooting — at least close in. The USVI made 35 of 83 from the field (42.2%), while holding El Salvador to 15 of 70 (21.4%). However, take away the USVI’s 3-point effort (just 3 of 19), and they were making shots at a 50 percent clip (32 of 64).
• After struggling with its rebounding in the first three games, the USVI broke loose Tuesday, finishing with a 71-36 advantage over El Salvador. That included a 27-14 edge in offensive boards. The USVI also used its size inside, outscoring the Salvadorans in the paint 58-18.
• The U.S. Virgin Islands also got quite a bit of support from its bench, with its reserves — led by Jones — outscoring El Salvador 23-5.
Argentina’s national team was forced to withdraw from the AmeriCup tournament after several members of its team tested positive for COVID-19.
Argentina’s scheduled game against Venezuela on Sunday was postponed after several inconclusive test results. After more tests returned positive results, tournament officials decided to cancel Argentina’s games against Venezuela and the United States, set for Tuesday.
Under tournament rules, the two canceled games were ruled as forfeits, which disqualified Argentina from the tournament and the results of its previous group-play games — a win over the Dominican Republic and a loss to Puerto Rico — nullified.
That also put the four remaining teams in Group B into the quarterfinals — the United States, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
—By BILL KISLER/The Virgin Islands Daily News