An all-star team from the U.S. Virgin Islands led most of the way but suffered a heart-breaking last second loss Wednesday night as the summer edition of Paradise Jam kicked off at the Sports and Recreation Center on the University of the Virgin Islands’ St. Thomas campus.
The USVI team and a squad representing the British Virgin Islands opened the action, and both ended up on the losing side of the final score – but they took very different routes to get there.
The Summer Paradise Jam is a pre-season event for Division 1 basketball teams to get some game time before their regular season begins.
The two Virgin Islands squads are joined in the field by teams from Abilene Christian, Northern Kentucky, the University of Massachusetts, Youngstown State and the University of Calgary.
Abilene Christian 81, British Virgin Islands 44
Wednesday’s opener saw Abilene Christian defeat the British Virgin Islands All-Star Team 81-44.
Abilene Christian jumped out early and never looked back. The Wildcats held a 13-point lead just 12 minutes into the first half.
The BVI All-Star team cut the lead to five after a Stephan Caul three-pointer with just under four and a half minutes left in the first half, but that was close as BVI got the rest of the way.
By halftime ACU’s lead was back to a comfortable 12 points, and as the second half worse on, the Wildcats had built their lead to as many as 42 points.
Hayden Howell of ACU led all scorers with 20 points. Their other double digit scorers for Abilene squad were Clay Gayman with 14 and Kolton Kohl with 10.
Eral Penn was the only double-digit scorer for the British Virgin Islands team with 16 points while Caul chipped in nine points in the losing effort.
Northern Kentucky 85, USVI 84
The U.S. Virgin Islands team of all-stars led Northern Kentucky by a single point with four seconds left, but a turnover and a buzzer-beating layup by Tyler Sharpe gave Northern Kentucky an improbable 85-84 victory.
The USVI came out of the gate on a tear, establishing an 11-2 lead just five minutes into the game with Khalid Gerrard grabbing seven of those early points.
The home team built its lead to 13 points with 10:11 left in the half, hitting five three pointers in the game’s first 10 minutes.
USVI led 45-33 at the break.
Northern Kentucky opened the second half with a 12-4 run and cut the deficit to one just five minutes into the half.
The Norse Men took their first lead of the contest on a Sharpe three-pointer with just about 14 minutes to go in the game. A three pointer by Dantez Walton gave Northern Kentucky and eight-point lead with 12:42 remaining.
The Virgin Islands responded and took the lead back with a Gerard jumper with 9:45 to go, extending the lead to eight with about three and a half minutes remaining.
Another Peters lay-up with 59 seconds to go saw the V.I. advantage rise to eight.
But Northern Kentucky kept fighting back and with the help of four free throws and a a three-pointer the Norse Men found themselves down by only two with 14 seconds remaining.
Devon Peltier for USVI hit two free throws to get the lead back to four with nine seconds to go, but NK’s Trevon Faulkner hit three free throws to cut the margin to one with four seconds to go.
And that’s when the sky fell in for the USVI team. On the next inbound play the ball was stolen and Sharpe’s heroics claimed the victory for Northern Kentucky.
Gerard had 33 points while Devon Peltier had 23 points in the losing effort for the V.I. team.
Sharpe had 29 points while Trevon Faulkner had 22. Dante’s Walton rounded out the double digit scorers with 12 points.
“We should have won it,” USVI Coach Chayne O’Neal said after the game, saying the team “the team “needs to improve on late game situations and more team ball.”
The schedule for the rest of the tournament is below, and tickets can be purchased at the door for $5.
The remaining schedule is:
– Thursday, Aug. 8, 5 p.m.: BVI vs. Northern Kentucky
– Friday, Aug. 9, 5 p.m.: BVI vs. Abilene Christian
– Saturday, Aug. 10, 2 p.m.: Northern Kentucky vs. BVI
– Wednesday, Aug. 14, 5 p.m.: University of Calgary vs. Youngstown St.
– Thursday, Aug. 15, 3 p.m.: Youngstown St. vs. U.S. Virgin Islands
– Friday, Aug. 16, 10 a.m.: University of Calgary vs. Youngstown St.
– Tuesday, Aug. 20, 5 p.m.: UMass vs. University of Calgary
– Thursday, Aug. 22, 5 p.m.: BVI vs. UMass
– Saturday, Aug. 24, 5 p.m.: UMass vs. USVI
Game times are subject to change.