Veteran coach and Mariana Islands Basketball Federation development officer Elias Rangamar credited the CNMI Junior Nationals’ three lopsided victories in the ongoing 2016 U17 Micronesian Basketball Tournament in Palau to the team’s adherence to the coaching staff’s game plan.
“They are doing what they are being told. The coaching staff (head coach Preston Basa and Omar Ajoste) are doing a great job implementing what we have been practicing in the last few months—which is to use the players’ speed in running the team’s offense and defense,” Rangamar said in an interview with Saipan Tribune yesterday a few hours before the CNMI play its last game in the elimination round against host Palau.
“These players are very young and have a lot of energy so they can really go up and down the court, play an up tempo game and do away with the zone. This kind of basketball is being played by a lot of successful teams today,” Rangamar added.
With the CNMI’s quickness, it managed to disrupt the opposing team’s offense in their first three wins, forcing a lot of turnovers and turning these errors into easy baskets. Against Guam, which the CNMI defeated by 30 points, 105-75, the Commonwealth cagers had 20 steals and a handful of fastbreak shots.
“It has been said a lot of times that a great offense comes from a great defense and I think that’s what they’ve been doing in those three matches. With their quickness, they were able to get steals and converted them into to fastbreak baskets,” Rangamar said.
The Juniors added 13 assists and also took care of the boards, collaring 41 rebounds. Versus Yap, the CNMI had more steals with 28 and matched its assists output in the first game, while getting 48 rebounds en route to a 101-74 win. Then in its 132-53 demolition of Belau, the relentless Commonwealth players recorded 33 steals and 19 assists while hauling 73 boards.
In the three victories, Basa’s wards also progressed in the foul department. They gave up 25 against Guam, lowered it down to 21 versus Yap, and then had only 7 over Belau.
On offense, although the CNMI reached past the century mark in all three occasions, their scoring options were not predictable and were balance. In Game 1, Greg Sablan stood out with his 23 points and he drew help from his 11 teammates. All 12 players of the CNMI also hit the board in Game 2 with Ron Atalig leading the way with his 26 markers, while in Game 3 it was N-nes Siech who top-scored for the Junior Nationals, tallying 22.
“So far so good. When we were training here, we instructed the players to get everyone involved on offense. Hopefully they can keep it that way until the playoffs. The big test will be against Palau tonight (yesterday) because that team plays the same kind of basketball we have,” Rangamar said.
The CNMI-Palau tiff for the top spot in the elimination was scheduled at 8pm (9pm Saipan time) and results were unavailable at press time. The playoff matches (No. 1 vs No. 4 and No. 2 vs No. 3) will be played today, while the finals and consolation games are set for tomorrow.