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December 2021
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Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Mexico secure trips to the semi-finals

 MEXICALI (Mexico) - The last day of group phase competition had many storylines as teams battled for position at the top of their respective tables. Could Puerto Rico win Group A? Could the Dominican Republic secure a semi-final spot and slow down Jamaica’s London Johnson? Who would win a physical matchup between Costa Rica and Panama? Could Mexico continue to enjoy home cooking and advance? Friday night gave us all the answers we needed.

Costa Rica 70 - 66 Panama

Costa Rica got out of the gates quickly racing out to a 7-0 lead. Panama finally got on the board at 5:10 of first quarter on a layup by Fernando Gonzalez as both teams looked for offense between turnovers as nerves were evident in the first period of action. Costa Rica held on to the lead to end things in the first period 12-8 led by Andres Mora’s seven-points.

Ticos would begin to stretch things out in the second period pulling away by 16 at 33-17 with 3:02 till the half as Costa Rica took advantage of 17 Panama turnovers and converted those into 22-points. The half would end with Costa Rica holding on to a 35-21 lead. Panama’s shooting woes did not help as they shot just 28-percent form the field and were an abysmal 1-14 from beyond the arc.

Panama’s inability to put the ball in the basket stretched into the third quarter as Costa Rica built an 18-point lead (their biggest of the contest) eventually leading 49-35 at the end of three quarters. Victor Julio accounted for both of Panama’s three-point shots made but Panama’s continued struggles from behind the three-point line accounted for just 2-18 for 11-percent.

The Costa Rican lead was cut to as few as eight when Humberto Kentish got a layup to go but then a huge three-pointer from Arce followed by an old fashioned three-point play by Mayron Guerrero extended the Coast Rica lead back to 14 with 5:20 to go. Panama never gave in and cut an 18-point lead to just eight on two occasions and then to just three after five consecutive points by Andres Orocu with 0:27 left.

Costa Rica would survive the Panamanian fourth period wave and win by the final score of 70-66.

Kentish led Panama with 18 in the narrow loss while Quiros scored 21-points for Costa Rica who now sit firmly in second place in Group A with a 2-1 record and five -points. They will face host Mexico in Saturday’s semi-finals. Panama will take on El Salvador in Classification round play.

Puerto Rico 104 - 33 Aruba

Puerto Rico used a 15-0 run in the first quarter and never looked back securing the top spot in Group A play in Mexicali with a dominating 104-33 win over Aruba.

As has been the case during the FIBA U17 CentroBasket Championship, Puerto Rico took advantage of opposition mistakes to get easy buckets. This contest versus Aruba was no different cashing in on nine Aruba miscues for 16-points in the first period in taking a 29-7 lead after the first quarter.

More of the same in the second quarter as Puerto Rico ran its advantage to 53-18 at the halftime break after dominating the paint 38-6 and forcing 10 more Aruba turnovers good for 28-points. Omar Sanchez led all scorers with 20-points in the first half on 9-13 shooting.

Except for the second quarter when Aruba scored 11-points, Puerto Rico held their Caribbean counterparts to single digits in the other three quarters and outscored Aruba 51-15.

The victors shot 65-percent in two-point field goals mostly due to layups in transition (30-7) and points in the paint (70-12). Sanchez led all scorers with 24-points on the afternoon. Four other teammates hit double-figures. Kyrian Brooks once again led Aruba in scoring with 11-points.

Puerto Rico advances to Saturday’s semi-finals where they will take on the Dominican Republic while Aruba faces off versus Jamaica in the Classification round.

Dominican Republic 103 - 67 Jamaica

Owning the paint has been something everyone has seen from the Dominican Republic in Mexicali. That recipe for success was definitely in effect as 24 of their 26 first quarter points came in the lane in leading Jamaica 26-18 after the first period. London Johnson kept Jamaica close with 10 first period points putting him on pace for a third consecutive 40-point effort.

Led by Luis Diaz (15-points), Wilber Burgos (11-points) and Nasir Muhammad’s 10-points, the Dominican Republic continued to build their lead by doing what they do best – using their physical style of play to get mid-range buckets and solid opportunities in the paint. That style of play secured a 53-40 halftime lead.

No one at the FIBA U17 CentroBasket Championships have been able to slow down, let alone stop Jamaica’s Johnson. At the midway point, the slender scoring machine had 24-points including a perfect 14-14 from the free throw line.

A 13-0 run to begin the second half pushed the DR lead to 66-40 putting the game out of reach for Jamaica with the final score 103-67 which assures the Dominican Republic a top-two finish in Group B.

After an off night in the loss on Thursday to Mexico, Muhammad bounced back with 25-points, 10-rebounds and eight assists. Diaz led the DR with 27-points and 12-boards.

Johnson didn’t reach 40 for the third straight night but he did lead all scorers with 37-points on 11-17 shooting and an almost perfect 16-17 from the charity stripe.

The DR now advances to Saturday’s semi-finals where they will take on Puerto Rico. Jamaica battles Aruba in the Classification round also on Saturday.

Mexico 120 - 44 El Salvador

Mexico looking to reach the semifinals and an opportunity to defend their FIBA U17 CentroBasket title used a 10-0 run, pressure defense and patience against the El Salvador zone to get off to an early 30-12 lead after the first quarter. Head coach Luis Moreno used 10 players in the first period trying to conserve legs for the weekends action and potential title run.

Another 10-0 spurt increased the Mexico lead in the second quarter by as many as 35-points eventually settling for a 52-21 lead at halftime behind 10-points apiece from Victor Valdes and Santiago Camacho. In all, 10 players scored for Mexico as everyone on the roster saw minutes.

Juan Ibarra has been a consistent source of scoring for El Salvador in Mexicali and led them in scoring at the half with seven points.

Mexico kept the pressure turned up in the second half continuing to turn El Salvador over and convert in transition taking a commanding 91-36 lead into the final period. Most of Mexico’s starters headed to the bench at the 7:28 mark allowing for rest and valuable experience for players like Leonardo Hernandez and Aram Soqui.

Seven players finished in double-figures for Mexico led by Valdez with 20-points. He also dished out nine assists and grabbed six rebounds.

Ibarra was the only El Salvador player to reach double digits scoring 15 on the evening.

The win puts Mexico atop the Group B standings and secures a semi-final matchup versus Costa Rica. El Salvador will take on Panama in Classification round play on Saturday.