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Jun 21, 1999

Controversy surrounds Raiders’ win

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The comeback season of semi-pro basketball came to an unbelievably exciting climax on Friday night as thousands of fans in the City Centre and at home watching on television witnessed one of the most dramatic sporting events in Belizean history. First it was the scrappy B.T.L. Nets coming back in the second half from a 21 point deficit to take what appeared to be an insurmountable 4 point lead with only 6 seconds left to play. Then it was the Raiders’ turn to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with MVP Keith Acosta playing the role of Superman as he sank 3 clutch free throws and an amazing alley oop dunk at the buzzer. But marring the championship contest was an error on the part of the referees and an official protest which brought into question the legality of the Raiders’ win. But you don’t need me to tell the story… when we’ve got the pictures… and James Adderley.

The rendition of the National Anthem in Garifuna was a powerful symbol of our rich diversity and culture as the City Centre rose in appreciation Friday night. Game II of the semi-pro basketball championship was here with the Phoenix Footlocker Raiders boasting a 1 game lead over B.T.L. Nets. Even the nation’s leader, the Honorable Said Musa, a basketball fan himself, was in the house among the thousands seeking the fun and entertainment of semi-pro play. It was the right time for the B.B.A. to shine and bask in the great success of the 1999 season, only they couldn’t quite make it all the way.

Fortunately the ballgame was the best semi-pro confrontation ever staged at the City Centre until that thing called controversy reared its ugly head. Still the Nets opened fast riding A.C. Augustine’s quick start as he strikes for the turn around 2. It’s a 6 point Nets lead when last week’s hero Darwin Carter from the U.S. kept his hot streak going knocking down the 3-point shot which has suddenly become his favorite weapon. Eloy “the Admiral” Lamb goes over the top to find Augustine and has 2 more B.T.L. points.

At the other end Roger Favela keeps the 3-point threat as they begin to steal away. Going to intermission it’s all Raiders as Sanchez hooks up with Keith Acosta who goes glass for 2. At the half the Raiders boast a 19 point lead.

After intermission the Nets make the most amazing comeback. Down by 21, A.C. strikes for the long 2. He would finish with 32 points, 5 boards. Darren Bovell burst through the Raiders’ defense getting 2 more for the Nets; he would contribute 10 points, 8 rebounds. Lloyd Leslie then takes Carter to the hoop for 2; he would hit a total of 10 points. And this is how B.T.L. takes its first lead in second half off the Lloyd Leslie steal and conversion.

A.C. Augustine then hits a 3-pointer to extend the Nets lead to 5 with 7 minutes to go. It’s Augustine again coming up with an amazing shot to give the Nets a 3-point lead with a minute to go.

Now here comes a totally unnecessary controversy that might have marred what was a good thing. Darren Bovell is fouled before reaching Bart Sanchez who is bruised by A.C. Augustine. Sanchez, the national sports coordinator, loses his cool and fires 2 wicked left round houses that mercifully didn’t connect on the intended target and the referees blow the whistle.

To make matters worse some idiot fan throws a bottle onto the court and the police cart away the alleged suspect. Order is restored with 6 seconds to go and B.T.L. has a 4 point lead when Darren Bovell misses from the charity stripe.

But wait a minute wasn’t Bart Sanchez ejected for petty violence which should give 2 more shots plus the possession to B.T.L. Nets. Even worse for the phone company, why would Lloyd Leslie want to force this foul on Acosta’s 3 point attempt, remains a thing of mystery. Whether it is a flagrant foul or not, it is referee Trench’s decision that it is. Keith Acosta coolly cans the 3-points consecutively and in the finish with point 6 seconds to go, the ball naturally goes to Acosta who executes the alley oop pass with a slam, scoring 5 of his 17 points in 6 seconds for the 75-74 big “W”.

The B.T.L. Nets remain in shock until Saturday when Kevin Castillo launches this press release informing the public of an official protest.

Kevin Castillo, Head Coach, B.T.L. Nets

“With 6 seconds left in the game, Darren Bovell was fouled. Before he could shoot his free throws, a technical foul was called on Bart Sanchez of the Raiders for punching A.C. Augustine of the Nets. Sanchez was ejected from the game. This entitled Augustine to two free throws, with possession of the ball going to the Nets. The game was interrupted for about 15 minutes when Raiders fans threw bottles on the court. Technical fouls were then called on both team benches for going onto the court. These fouls cancelled out each other.

When the game resumed, Bovell was awarded his two free throws. Augustine was never awarded his two free throws, nor did the Nets get back possession of the ball. This was clearly a grave error on the part of the game officials.

Just as the world recognizes that Lennox Lewis did not lose to Evander Holyfield, so too, basketball fans throughout the city who watched the game know that the Nets did not lose to the Raiders. The B.T.L. Nets franchise therefore, in the interest of the sport, the fans and basic fairplay, calls upon Commissioner of the B.B.A., Mr. Hilly Martinez to address in a transparent manner these glaring and embarrassing circumstances that have given a blackeye to semi-pro basketball in Belize.”

Here’s the response of the Phoenix Footlocker Raiders through their General Manager Glenn Tillett who spoke to us this morning.

Glenn Tillett, General Manager, Phoenix Footlocker Raiders

“We won the 1999 Belize Basketball Association Championship on the court. We are the champions. For the 5th straight year we have participated and for the 5th straight year we’ve won the championship, as for Mr. Castillo’s statement, even if he considers it classless, baseless and tasteless.”

Q: “How far will the Raiders go to not have to play this game over?”

Glenn Tillett

“There is no length to go James; we’re a professional organization and I should think that if the proper circumstances were there, where somebody wanted to play us a match, we would sit down and look at that.

We will not replay or revisit the B.B.A. 1999 Championship except in our memory. As far as we’re concerned after a season of hard work and a late start this “mission impossible” is mission accomplished.”

This afternoon the fate of the semi-pro season was placed in the hands of the B.B.A. Protest Committee. On Wednesday that body, consisting of Marion Usher, Sonny Meighan and Eric Eusey will meet to make its ruling. Will that ruling, whatever it is, be final? When asked that question this evening B.B.A. Commissioner Hilly Martinez would only answer: “hopefully”. While we anxiously await Wednesday’s decision Channel Five would like to thank all those persons and companies who contributed to making this semi-pro basketball season a resounding success. As a final treat for basketball fans we will air the Raiders-Nets game one more time in it entirety Tuesday night at eight.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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