NMI hopes quickness enough vs Mini Games foes

Jack Lizama, left, has nowhere to go against the baseline defense of a Tinian Alpha Males player during a Mini Games qualifying tournament at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium last month. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

The CNMI men’s national 3×3 basketball team hopes its quickness and players’ familiarity would be enough for the squad to get past its opponents when competition begins in the 10th Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu.

The Mini Games will open on Dec. 4 at the Korman Stadium in Port Vila, while the 3×3 basketball competition, for both for men and women, starts on Dec. 11 and ends on Dec. 14 at the Korman Indoor Hall 2.

Dan Barcinas, Preston Basa, Jack Lizama, and Douglas Schmidt will be representing Team CNMI in the Mini Games after winning the Mariana Islands Basketball Federation 3×3 Hoopfest last month with Elias Rangamar acting as team manager and coach.

Rangamar, who is also a Mariana Islands Basketball Federation official, said it is a bit hard to scout some of the competing teams in 3×3 basketball since not all have videos that can be searched online.

“It’s hard to find any games of some of the teams. Most of the time, you’re search would end up with nothing. Guam will still be the team to beat, but you can’t rule out Fiji and Samoa. These three are powerhouse teams and the countries to beat,” said Rangamar.

“I’ve heard that Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands also have good teams. We’ll see a clearer picture when we get there and check the final schedule,” he added.

American Samoa, New Caledonia, and Papua New Guinea complete the participants list. Nine-time Pacific Games basketball gold medalist Tahiti won’t be competing after the Pacific Games Council suspended them due to their leadership crisis.

Rangamar said they would just use any advantage they have against the other teams.

“We’re trying to use our quickness and shooting to our advantage. These guys are known shooters, so they are free to shoot whenever one of them is open,” he said. “Also, we need to get those rebounds so we could create scoring situations. The games in 3×3 are quick, so you need to have good shooters. We need to make those outside shots, to open up the middle.”

He added that they are hoping to get past the elimination and enter the medal rounds. “Anything can happen from there. It all depends on the grouping but for sure, this is a good experience for them since 3×3 is new.”

The Pacific Games Council has included 3×3 basketball to its calendar after the International Olympic Committee added the sport to its program. The Vanuatu Games will be the first to host the competition both in the men’s and women’s divisions. The IOC executive board decided to include 3×3 basketball as an Olympic sport last June 9 this year and it will be played in the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. The sport has long been part of the Youth Olympic Games since the first edition in Singapore in 2010 with Serbia winning the boys gold after a 22-9 victory over Croatia in the finals and China defeating Australia, 33-29, to rule the girls division.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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