Palau rallied to a heart-stopping 69-65 victory over CNMI 1 in their semifinal game in the boys 17-and-under Micronesian Basketball Tournament match yesterday to forge a winner-take-all championship match against undefeated Guam today at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
The visitors outscored the home team, 15-4, in the final 7:35 of the match. After CNMI 1 went up 61-53 on a Jaymark De Guzman hanging layup, Palau kicked off the rally with a deuce by hotshot Marvic Ngchar and was followed by two more buckets
Bryle Alegre put some sense back into CNMI 1's reeling offense when he scored following an assist by Jack Aranda to make it 63-57 with about five minutes to go in the ballgame.
But that proved to be just delaying the inevitable, as Ngchar went on a personal 6-0 run that knotted the game at 63-all.
The 5'9” swingman started it by swooshing a triple and then following a steal converted on a layup while being fouled. He made the extra charity, as CNMI 1 coach Omar Ajoste sued for time.
The timeout failed to break Palau's momentum though as Ngchar again hit from inside to make it 65-63 in their favor with 2:57 left on the clock.
While Christian Mizer tied it up at 65-all with a pair of free throws, CNMI 1 said goodbye to its finals chances when Raddison Dorado-the smallest player in the court-made a circus shot that made it 67-65 with 1:18 to go.
The final minute was marked by an exchange of turnovers and CNMI 1 misfiring from near and far.
The home team had a chance to tie it but De Guzman's steal and pass while tip-toeing on the baseline went to a Palau player.
With less than 30 seconds to go, CNMI 1 fouled Palau four times to get into penalty and when it finally did get into bonus the foul that led them there was an advantage foul.
Shonty Ubedei would make only 1 of 2, but in the ensuing Palau possession CNMI 1 fouled Ngchar who made it a 4-point game, 69-65, before misfiring on his second free throw.
CNMI 1 could only heave a desperation 3-pointer as time expired.
It was a close game from the very start with No. 2 seed CNMI 1 taking a 19-16 lead after the first quarter.
The home team would enjoy as much as a 7-point advantage in the second, but No. 3 Palau battled back and was only down by a point, 36-37, at halftime.
Behind some inspired play from Aranda and De Guzman, CNMI 1 got the better of Palau in the third, 53-49, and seemed headed for the sure win in the fourth before the visitors made their rally to shock the team and their throng of supporters at the Ada Gym.
Ngchar led all scorers with 22 points, while Edward Baysa added 15. De Guzman fired 17 in the loss with Aranda and Mizer tossing in 15 and 14 in the loss.
In the earlier boys Final Four, Guam locked down the first semis slot after repeating against a tough Tinian squad, 86-66.
Like their first encounter Wednesday, which was incidentally won by Guam 74-53, Tinian gave the U.S. territory a lot of fits with their physical play.
Guam led 26-12 after quarter No. 1 behind the 16 combined points of 6'3” slotman Michael Sakazaki and high-leaping forward Rashaun Blas.
Tinian, however, continued to tug on the coattails of the powerhouse team and with Dairus Pettis fired 5 points, Guam's lead was just 15, 46-31, at the break.
Guam finally flexed its muscles in the third and threatened to run away with the match as Sakazaki had all sorts of open looks inside, pumping in 10 in the period as Guam led 46-31 heading into the fourth.
Tinian, however, hung around and managed to slice Guam's lead bit by bit. With Pettis teaming up with Lucios Sanchez for all but 6 of Tinian's 18 points in the fourth, coach Keith Nabors' crew gave Guam its slimmest margin of victory in the competition at 20 points.
Big boys Blas and Sakazaki combined for 47 points to lead Guam, while Pettis and Sanchez unloaded 17 apiece in the loss, which relegated Tinian to the battle for third.
The Palau-Guam boys finals will be played starting 4pm today at the Ada Gym. The battle for third between CNMI 1 and Tinian will start at 12pm.
Guam 86 - Blas 25, Sakazaki 22, Sammy Setik 9, Onedera 9, Oledan 6, Dilma 4, Sam Setik 4, Quichocho 2, Taitano 2.
Tinian 66 - Pettis 17, Sanchez 17, Babauta 11, Maui 7, Sablan 4, Borja 3.
Scoring by quarters: 26-12, 46-31, 70-48, 86-66.
Palau 68 - Ngchar 23, Baysa 15, Wilter 8, Carlson 6, Ubedei 3, Yaoch 2, Isao 2.
CNMI 1 65 - De Guzman 17, Aranda 15, Mizer 14, Tudela 11, Alegre 8.
Scoring by quarters: 16-19, 36-37, 49-53, 69-65.