Libertadores surprised the locals, and Guaros resisted Capitanes
PONCE (DIRECTV Liga de las Américas) – Libertadores de Querétaro (Mexico) and Guaros de Lara (Venezuela) took the lead in the first day of action of Group D of the DIRECTV Liga de las Américas, that is currently being disputed at Juan “Pachín” Vicéns Auditorium in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
The Mexican quintet, a last-minute call into the tournament, silently arrived at the stage, but caused an uproar in the court after surprising everyone and overcoming hosts Leones de Ponce (Puerto Rico), 112-109, after a last-second three-pointer by center Andrew Feely.
Feely lived a marvelous night with 30 points, including 6/6 in threes, as well as nine rebounds. He was followed by his teammate, Anthony Young, with 28 units and 8 captures.
Since the very beginning, the Querétaro squad were surprising with their intensity and good shooting. In the first half they achieved their greatest distance, 21 points (51-30), when there were 5:15 minutes left to play to end the second quarter.
Ponce reacted. Nonetheless, the long-distance throws always kept the Aztecs on top, who threw 18/34 for a 53% average from the three-point line.
Meanwhile, Leones seemed to be grasping the game in the last act when veteran player Carlos Arroyo made a four-points play (a three-pointer and an additional free throw), that scored the game at 100, with 2:19 left on the clock. Then, Adrian Uter scored a two-pointer thanks to an assist by Carlos Arroyo to take the lead. However, the visiting team persevered with their three-pointers in consecutive attacks by Freeley, Jesús González and Brandon Davis.
Víctor Liz tied the score at 109, with another three-pointer with 11 seconds left for the end, but Querétaro had the last word through Feeley, who scored after an offensive rebound.
“We suffered a lot, but we kept going. Our players are very experienced, and they demonstrated it. We integrated well, we never lost our temper, we stayed focused,” said González, who produced 13 points during the game.
“We came here as mere competitors, but now we're in the race. We must improve the defense and press the ball more,” added the point guard.
Former NBA and EuroLeague asset Carlos Arroyo had the better individual performance in the tournament, with 25 points and 18 assists, but all his efforts weren't enough for Leones. Dominican player Liz was also outstanding, with another 25 units; meanwhile, power forward Nicolas Minnerrath added 20.
“We weren't expecting to lose, but that's how it is in sports. We neglected our rebounds and we lost that last shot by Feeley. We knew that they depended quite a lot in three-point throws, but we underestimated that, we were too trusting, and we paid for it. Tomorrow (Saturday) will be a key day. The group is very equalled, the two winners only did so by three points. We have to turn the page to be able to react,” Liz analyzed.
Resisting was the key
Guaros, with just the right effort, were able to control Capitanes de Arecibo (Puerto Rico) for 40 minutes, and imposed their game, 84-81, during the day's first encounter.
The Venezuelans relied on a great Néstor Colmenares, who portrayed his versatility in the game by contributing 25 points (12/15 in field goals), nine rebounds and four assists; while substitute Rodney Green added 20 (9/11 from the court).
The Lara squad showed their best side in the first part of the game, going to the halftime in the upside, 42-32. Capitanes picked up in the second part, but Guaros were always able to respond when their rivals came closer and kept them in line.
Their best weapon was the attack from the paint (58 points from that zone), which was a considerable difference regarding the horrible night they lived from the long-distance, where they could barely score four three-pointers in 24 attempts.
“Our league concluded six months ago, we knew that the percentages would not be good in the outside throws because we've been inactive, so we worked on the defense, we paid attention to the ball and we moved it considerably. That was the key,” commented Colmenares after the match.
Meanwhile, for Capitanes, Johwen Villegas analyzed: “I think we lost the first two quarters, we weren't intense enough, and we couldn't close in when we came close. Now we have to make up in the games that are ahead.”
Andre Emmett guided Arecibo’s attack with 22 points. Victor Rudd added 15, and Elijah Holman and Villegas 12 each.
This Saturday, Libertadores and Capitanes will play at 18:10, local game time, followed by the encounter between Guaros and Leones.