The Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation has so far completed three of the five division competitions in the 2021-2022 season of the IT&E Interscholastic Basketball League despite the delays and other challenges brought about by the pandemic.
Thanks to the league’s major sponsor IT&E, coaches of the participating schools, the leadership of the CNMI Public School System and PSS Athletic Programs director Nick Gross, and members of the NMI Senior National Team Program. The latter are helping the NMIBF run the games in the league as they serve as referees during the matches and sits on the officials table. The NMIBF has completed the girls middle school competition as well as the girls and boys high school and is gearing up for boys middle school before concluding the season with the elementary games.
“When we partnered with the PSS in conducting the interscholastic league last year, one of the challenges was to find officials for the games because we were just slowly getting back to the court after the pandemic suspended majority of our competitions. However, we are able to survive that challenge as our players from the NMI Senior National Team Program stepped up and started officiating our girls middle school league,” NMIBF president James Lee.
The national program’s pool has players who are both enrolled in high school and college and they go straight to the Marianas High School to officiate matches, while those working also assisted in late afternoon games. On weekends, national pool players are also lending a hand in NMIBF’s mini basketball village outreach program called “Bola.”
Kyu Aldan is one of the players helping the NMIBF it is programs, as he also officiated in the girls middle school in November last year and the girls high school games early this month, while his own team, Kagman High School, was waiting for its turn at the Marianas High School Gymnasium court.
“It was a very new and fun experience being able to help out NMIBF and PSS during the interscholastic tournament. National players were not only able to ref, table, and maintain the courts, but as well play in the games. A few of the younger national players participated in the tournament, Nyrell, Frankie (Satur), Leo (Naraja), and myself. It was an amazing sight to see not only the men’s national helping out but as well as the women’s. The women’s national had a big role in assisting the tournaments. Without the help of both the men’s and the women’s, this wouldn’t have been made possible,” Aldan said.
Destiny Pangelinan is among the women’s pool members that consistently helped out run the NMIBF’s first three events in the interscholastic league, joining Michelle and Richelle Kautz, Marlene Lumabi, Fiona Bucalig, Madeleine Alegre, Shanesse Aldan, Kaia Travilla, and Sha Aina Mendoza. Other players also took time out to assist the NMIBF in the village program, teaching basic basketball skills to children in the U14 age group.
“I really enjoy helping out with these events because it really allows us to help out our community through basketball. I like that the federation allows us to help out with these events because it benefits the community, the players, and the federation all together,” Pangelinan said.
NMIBF vice president David John Apatang is proud that the national program does not only focus on improving the players’ basketball skills, but also on developing their leadership abilities.
“They will be the future leaders of NMI basketball and it’s a good training for them to see how the programs are being run and how important it is to bring the sport to the community and engage everyone to continue to grow basketball and offer opportunities to our players and officials,” Apatang said.
While they are helping the NMIBF run the interscholastic league, players from the national program are also getting ready for the FIBA Micronesian Cup that will be held in Guam from June 8 to 15 this year. The group will also compete in the Northern Mariana Islands Friendship Classic Tournament, which University of Guam will be hosting on March 31, as part of its preparations for the FIBA event. (PR)