CARACAS, Venezuela — Jamaica rattled Puerto Rico with a sterling third quarter comeback, but soft turnovers down the final stretch condemned the English-speaking Caribbean men to an 82-88 defeat in the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship game at the Poliedro de Caracas, yesterday.
It was the Jamaicans' best showing of the basketball competition, but a third successive loss — after previous defeats to Canada and Uruguay — puts them on the brink of going out.
Puerto Rico, Group A's top outfit and the form team of the tournament, have won all four matches.
Jamaica will end the preliminary round against Brazil today in a 7:00 pm (Ja time) fixture.
The four top teams in each of the two groups will advance to the second round, which starts on September 5.
Depending on Jamaica's fortunes in this evening's encounter and the results in other games, the Sam Vincent-coached team could still advance.
The six-foot-nine inches forward Samardo Samuels, who was at the heart of an impressive Jamaica comeback in the third quarter, led the scoring yesterday with 24 points from 9/16 shooting. His deft skill and raw power also yielded him six rebounds in 29 minutes on the court.
Shooting guard Weyinmi Rose had 18 points, four rebounds and two steals, while centre Jerome Jordan returned 10 points to go with nine boards.
Lightning-fast point guard Jose Barea, a former NBA winner with the Dallas Mavericks, led Puerto Rico with 24 points.
Vincent, who made proactive substitutions to help haul in the Puerto Ricans after they sped off to a 48-33 lead at the half-time break, rued the late blunders, but felt his team showed plenty of improvement.
He added that continued "growth" could bring them the much-needed victory over the Brazilians.
"The team continues to play better and better as we get more experience in this tournament. Down towards the end we didn't execute and it cost us the game, [but] we are still happy with our progress.
"We want to carry over this growth into the Brazil game. We want to keep competing and we know that once we beat Brazil tomorrow [today] we could be right back into this tournament," Vincent said.
Jamaica, making their novel appearance at this level, were pushed back by Puerto Rico in the early exchanges and went behind 13-25 at the end of the first quarter.
The one-sided affair continued into the second period, but Samuels, Rose, Durand Scott, Dylan Ennis and Akeem Scott ran Puerto Rico ragged with intelligent basketball mixed with sheer athleticism to bring Jamaica to 62-63 at the end of the third.
The JamRockerZ, who had the neutral spectators including scores of Dominican Republic supporters behind them, stayed in touch and even temporarily took the lead in the final quarter.
The introduction of forward Patrick Ewing Jr — his first of the tournament due to a right shoulder sprain -- in the third quarter also boosted the Jamaican effort.
However, a series of missed shots and turnovers late in the game allowed the vastly more seasoned Puerto Rico team to secure the win.
The semi-finalists at this Championship all qualify for the basketball World Cup next year in Spain.