CARACAS, Venezuela — Jamaica men's basketball head coach Sam Vincent is proud of the team's showing at the FIBA Americas Championship despite exiting the tournament with an 85-95 second-round loss to Venezuela on Sunday.
The JamRockerZ lost their opening three games before eliminating Brazil in a do-or-die clash to advance from the first round.
Days later, Jamaica, first-time contestants on the FIBA Americas stage, pulled another upset by beating reigning champions Argentina, but that was the lone victory in four second-round games and left Vincent's team in eighth place, on the outside looking in.
"I'm very proud of our guys. I'm proud of the way they fought, they stayed with it, they competed and in several of the games we had a chance to win. That's all you can really try to hope for the first time in a tournament.
"Of course winning would be nice, but you got to give them a lot of credit. This is a great experience for us and we'll get better from here," Vincent told the Jamaica Observer after Sunday night's encounter at the Poliedro de Caracas.
The arena was not packed to capacity because by then, the home fans knew their team was out of the reckoning for a semi-final spot following an overtime loss to Puerto Rico the night before, but the cacophonous pro-Venezuela support was simply deafening.
For the third consecutive match the visitors were without Milan-bound forward Samardo Samuels, who the Jamaica Basketball Association said is being allowed to focus for his professional move to Italy for the upcoming season.
The vibrant atmosphere evidently buoyed the Venezuela team and they raced into a 19-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Jamaica, showing the grit that has highlighted many of their comebacks at this Championship, rallied fiercely and trailed 39-40 at the half-time interval.
The teams could hardly be separated in the third period and they entered the final quarter locked at
Venezuela looked the hungrier of the two and bounded into the lead early in the period before sweeping the contest by a comfortable 10-point margin.
Patrick Ewing Jr, who was 4/4 from three-point range, and 6/9 overall, led Jamaica with 16 points.
Weyinmi Rose and Akeem Scott both had 14 points, while Durand Scott and Jerome Jordan chipped in with 13 each.
Hector Romero had a game-high 23 points for Venezuela.
Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Argentina advanced to the semi-final and secured automatic places to the FIBA World Cup next year in Spain.
Mexico, with 12 points, topped the second round standing due to a superior head-to-head record over the Dominicana outfit, and Puerto Rico, who both also finished with 12.
Argentina ended with 11 points, only edging out Venezuela (also 11 points) due to head-to-head advantage, while Canada finished sixth with 10 points.
Uruguay and Jamaica brought up the base with eight points each; however, the South Americans, who won a clash between the two teams during the first-round, took seventh spot.
Brazil and Paraguay were the teams eliminated at the first round.
In the semi-final matches today, Mexico face Argentina and Dominican Republic battle Puerto Rico.