The Falcons of Bowling Green State University will face off Monday night against the University of Nevada Wolfpack in the final of the men’s bracket of the 20th annual Paradise Jam basketball tournament on St. Thomas.
The championship game will tip off at 9 p.m. at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center on St. Thomas. Tickets are available at the door.
The tournament opened Friday with Valparaiso, Nevada, Cincinnati and Bowling Green all winning their first round games and moving to the semifinals.
Valparaiso earned its spot with a 78-74 victory over Grand Canyon University, in a game that could have gone either way right to the end. Valparaiso only led by one with a minute and a half remaining, but was able to secure the victory with strong free throw shooting.
The game’s leading scorer was Carlos Johnson of GCU with 27 points. Javon Freeman-Liberty was the Paradise Jam Player of the Game with 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals for Valparaiso.
Nevada dominated the second game from start to finish. The Wolfpack scored the game’s first six points, led by 10 at halftime and by as much as 25 in the second half before posting a final score of 74-60.
The Paradise Jam Player of the Game was Jalen Harris, who led the Wolfpack with 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds while Jalen Cobb scored 21 points in the loss.
Cincinnati overcame a 10-point deficit with 9:15 left to stun upset-minded Illinois State 65-64.
Jarron Cumberland scored his 23rd point with eight seconds left for the go-ahead basket and Illinois missed on the next possession and Cincinnati held on to secure the comeback victory.
Cumberland earned the Paradise Jam Player of the Game honor with 23 points, the most important being that last bucket, while Dedric Boyd had 18 points in the loss.
The nightcap game was down to the wire as Western Kentucky held a seven point lead with just under seven minutes to go in the game but Bowling Green got the game within one possession with a layup with just over three minutes remaining.
Both teams went scoreless over the next two minutes before Tavieon Hollingsworth hit a free throw with 41 seconds left to give Western Kentucky 75-72 lead. Caleb Fields scored a layup with 12.2 seconds left for Bowling Green to cut the deficit to one.
Josh Anderson, for Western Kentucky, missed the front end of a one-and-one and Justin Turner drove the length of the floor to hit a floater to give Bowling Green the victory.
Turner led Bowling Green with 27 points and earned the Paradise Jam Player of the Game honor while Hollingsworth and Charles Bassey both had 19 points for Western Kentucky.
In the first semifinal, Valparaiso cut the lead to 10 with just over 13 minutes but Nevada went on a 20-3 run putting the game out of reach to book their spot in the final game.
Nevada’s Harris was the Paradise Jam Player of the Game with 25 points while Freeman-Liberty had 21 points in the loss.
The second semifinal was an in-state battle that went into overtime.
Bowling Green were down by 12 at halftime to Cincinnati but fought back to make it a four-point game with seven and a half minutes to go, but Cincinnati worked its lead back up, but Bowling Green forced overtime and won the extra stanza, 91-84.
Fordham beat Grand Canyon University 70-58 and Western Kentucky beat Illinois State 83-69.
While the tournament was going on, the home team continued its regular season, winning a nail-biter, 59-58 over Rust College in a game that came down to the final possession.
UVI trailed 6-2 early but started to get hot from downtown and led 11-8 after Josh Goss’s second three pointer of the game.
Rust College then scored the next seven points to take a 15-11 lead before UVI answered, netting its own five-point run to take a 16-15 lead with about eight minutes left in the first half.
The teams went back and forth and the lead changed hands over the next six baskets before UVI went on a 12-4 run to close out the half. The run was capped off by Keith Gilmore’s last second shot and UVI led 31-24 going into halftime.
Rust started the second half strong and tied the score, 32-32, with 17 minutes left in the game.
The visitors gradually built a seven-point lead but a coast-to-coast layup by Gilmore cut the deficit to three with about nine minutes to go in the game.
Goss gave the Bucs a 52-51 lead with around six and a half minutes left in the game but Rust tied the game again with four and a half minutes left at 53 all.
The Bucs took a four-point, 57-53, lead with 2:10 on the clock.
With 50 seconds left Rust cut the deficit to one point with a three pointer.
With 4.9 seconds left Goss missed the front end of a one-and-one and gave Rush a chance to win.
Rush’s three point shot fell short and the Bucs were left on the winning end of an exhilarating contest.
Gilmore lead the team with 19 points and Goss had 12 while Muhammadu Jawau had 11 points for the Bucs.
The UVI Lady Bucs fell 62-53 to Rust College on Saturday afternoon from the UVI Sports and Fitness Center.
Rust College jumped out to a 7-0 lead and was up 20-10 at the end of the first quarter.
UVI responded in the second quarter by scoring the first 11 points with nine points in the run coming from Jazmen Anthony’s three-point shooting.
At halftime the women of UVI trailed 31-27.
A Jayden Rice three pointer tied the game at 37 with about four minutes to go in the third quarter. The next 13 points were scored by Rust College before the end of the third quarter. They continued that run as they scored the first three points of the fourth quarter as well.
The Lady Bucs went on a 10-0 run and got the score within four with five minutes left in the game but that is as close as they got in the final quarter.
The Lady Bucs were led by Anthony, who scored 21 points, and Rice, who had 20 in the loss.
Monday, Nov. 25, will be the final day of men’s tournament.
The 7th place game opens the action at 2 p.m. between Grand Canyon University and Illinois State, followed at 4:15 p.m. with Fordham and Western Kentucky playing for 4th place, before Valparaiso and Cincinnati play for 3rd at 6:45 p.m. The championship game between Bowling Green and Nevada is slated to start at 9 p.m.