The CNMI Junior Nationals continued their strong showing in the elimination round of the 2016 U17 Micronesian Basketball Tournament as they posted another lopsided win after pouncing on Belau, 132-53, yesterday morning at the Palau National Gymnasium in Koror.
The Commonwealth representatives, who had similar blowout victories over Guam (105, 75) and Yap, 101-74, automatically gained a playoff berth in the five-team tournament after earning their biggest winning margin so far in the regional competition. The CNMI will go for the elimination sweep tonight when it takes on fellow unbeaten Palau (2-0), which whipped Guam (0-2), 70-34, in last night’s second game. A win over Palau will give the Preston Basa-coached CNMI the top seeding in the semifinals where they will face No. 4 finisher after the elimination.
“We have to prepare for our game against Palau tomorrow (today). We need to get the W first before we worry about the playoffs,” CNMI assistant coach Omar Ajoste told Saipan Tribune.
“Against Belau, our boys were aggressive from start to finish and committed less fouls (7) so they really did well today,” Ajoste added.
The Commonwealth cagers had a jackrabbit start against Belau, the host’s second team in the tournament, as the visiting squad took a 38-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Lefty Jethro Cruz anchored the CNMI’s impressive run in the opening 10 minutes of play, knocking in 11 points, including 9 straight midway in that period.
Cruz slowed down a bit in the second canto, hitting only two field goals, but his teammates picked up the scoring, widening the gap to 38 at halftime, 63-25.
It was all over, but the score in the second half, as the CNMI was unstoppable on offense with almost all of its players finding a way to hit their shots, while Belau had limited options. The home squad failed to make baskets in streaks against the CNMI’s unforgiving defense, which resulted to the visiting team’s 33 steals.
N-Nes Siech top-scored for the Commonwealth with his 22 points off his 11-for-14 field goal shooting, while five of his teammates also logged double figures. Jester Kintaro added 16 markers and had 8 rebounds, while Cruz finished with 15 points to go with his 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 steals. Troy Ngirarois also tallied 15 markers and had the team’s best 11 boards. Roberto Paragados Jr. and Jeffrey Castro were the other twin-digit scorers for the CNMI, contributing 10 each, while the former added 10 rebounds and latter posted 5 steals.
Only captain Jerry Ngiraremiang hit double figures for Belau with his 16 points. Belau before bowing to the CNMI came from a 85-77 over Yap last Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, despite their convincing victories, Ajoste said there’s no room for complacency.
“We can’t underestimate any team because the ball is round and whoever makes lesser fouls and turnovers has the strong chance to win the championship,” the assistant coach added.
CNMI 132 — Siech 22, Kintaro 16, Cruz 15, Ngirarois 15, Paragados 10, Castro 10, Rios 8, Blake 8, Atan 7, Atalig 4, Sablan 4.
Belau 53 — Ngiraremiang 16, Sungino 9, A. Kintoki 8, Ueki 6, Cavan 4, J. Kintoki 4, Emery 3, Edeluchel 3.
Scoring by quarters: 38-14, 63-25, 100-40, 132-53.