After their third training match against bigger high school opponents, the Belize U-15 National Basketball Team is nearing the end of its training and preparation for the upcoming Centrobasket Tournament in Chiapas, Mexico.

Last Friday night, October 22, the team played their third exhibition training match at the Civic Center, this one against the SJC basketball team, whom they defeated, 64-56. It is a significant win for the youngsters, considering they were up against older boys from the highly rated SJC high school team, who had jumped out to a 16-4 first quarter lead. The U-15 pulled their game together and held their own to end the first half trailing with a respectable 29-18 score. The second half belonged to the U-15, however, as they closed the gap in the third quarter to 50-43; and then dominated their opponents in the fourth, to overtake SJC and come away with the 64-56 win.

The two previous outings in the U-15 series of training/exhibition matches were against the CODICADER silver medalists, Sacred Heart College U-18, featuring their star forward Kachief Thomas. Sacred Heart won both games by over 10 points, but the U-15 held their own on both occasions, forcing Sacred Heart and Kachief to pull out their “A” game.

With this latest result, head coach Matthew Smiling, who was eager on Saturday morning to provide us with the game stats, is visibly satisfied with the progress of the U-15 National Team youths, who are scheduled to travel this coming weekend to Chiapas, Mexico, for the 2010 Centrobasket Tournament which runs from November 1 to 6.

The major sponsor for the U-15 is Belize Natural Energy (BNE), but the team also did some fundraising of its own. First, there were the exhibition games, and then Mark Usher’s P.R.O.T.O. group, along with sponsors Smiling Meats, Krem Radio & TV, Channel 7, Amandala, More FM, BBF, and Angelus Press, spearheaded a big barbecue on Saturday, October 16, to help outfit the team for the trip to Centrobasket.

Though only 12 players can be registered at any one time in the tournament, the team management has seen it fit, for practical reasons, to include a total of 15 players in the U-15 training camp.

Wed. Oct. 27

Late word this morning from coach Matthew Smiling is that the trip to Chiapas is presently in doubt, due to conflicting reports that the tournament may have been cancelled. BBF president Paul Thompson is reportedly in Belmopan and is expected to call a press conference later today to clarify the situation. Should the trip to Centrobasket be cancelled, according to Smiling, it is their hope to arrange a trip to Cancun for the U-15 to play exhibition matches there. We await the final word from the BBF.

Meanwhile, we checked the FIBA Americas web site, and the last mention of the U-15 Centrobasket was in a September 17 release where they had announced the new date for the tournament on November 1 – 6.

Thurs. Oct. 28

We received a press release this evening stating that the BBF press conference will be held tomorrow morning in the BPFL office at the Civic Center compound beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Whatever the outcome, we have to give big props to the players and coaching staff of the Belize U-15 National Basketball Team for putting in a “crazy” amount of work in preparation for the 2010 Centrobasket tournament; and also to the parents of the players and the BBF executive for giving their full support. Our boys are ready to represent.

Amandala