NMI rallies to beat PNG in FIBA U15

Posted on Nov 24 2022

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The NMI’s Azriel Fatialofa (23) is surrounded by three Papua New Guinea players during their game in the FIBA U15 Oceania Championship Guam 2022 yesterday at the University of Guam Calvo Field House. (FIBA OCEANIA)

Kaitlyn Chavez and Azriel Fatialofa powered the NMI girls national team to a come-from-behind 90-73 victory over Papua New Guinea in Day 3 of the FIBA U15 Oceania Championship Guam 2022 held yesterday at the University of Guam Calvo Field House.

The day prior in Day 2 of the six-day tournament, the NMI boys national team hung tough against PNG before dropping an 85-99 decision. 

In the girls’ win over Olympic country PNG, coach Marlene Lumabi’s troops started strong in the first quarter and led the Melanesian nation, 19-11, before tapering a bit in the second and settled for a 32-30 spread at the break.

PNG then outscored the NMI in the third quarter, 28-14, to take a comfortable 58-46 advantage heading into the fourth and final quarter. 

The NMI’s Kaitlyn Chavez (9) drives to the hoop against Papua New Guinea during their game in the FIBA U15 Oceania Championship Guam 2022 yesterday at the University of Guam Calvo Field House.(FIBA OCEANIA)

The NMI, however, saved the best for last by dominating PNG in the final 10 minutes of the contest. They started the payoff period with 14 unanswered points to turn the tables on PNG and took a 62-56 lead on a 2-pointer by Fatialofa with time down to 7:40.

The NMI would then end the game on a 28-17 run to leave the outcome of the game in no doubt. The win allowed the NMI to equal its record to 1-1 after debuting with a 37-85 loss to Guam last Monday. 

Chavez exploded for a game-high 40 points to lead the NMI along with 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals. Fatialofa, meanwhile, made her best Shaq impersonation finishing with 36 points, 23 rebounds, 6 blocks, 6 steals, and 4 assists.

PNG, which dropped a 23-121 loss to Guam on Tuesday,  was paced by the 34 points of Gibella Maikai with Lahui Hekwa and Clarice Hane chipping in 19 and 18 markers, respectively.

Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee congratulated the girls in notching their first win of the tourney and also gave kudos to the boys team for fighting hard.

“I’m so proud of them. Both our U15 boys and girls and also our coaches. The tournament is a great experience for them and to help our national program to continue to grow. The win today was a plus to everything they’ve already accomplished.”

Lee also gushed on the potential of Chavez and Fatialofa.

“Kaitlyn is a force to be reckoned with. She has a good basketball IQ and well-rounded skills. Not to mention she’s very athletic. Azzy has definitely grown within the past year from playing in the Micro Cup and now helping her U15 teammates bag the win. They, along with all our other U15 athletes, just need more exposure to this kind of  competitive level so that they can continue to level up,” he said.

In other results yesterday, the girls of Australia wiped the floor clean of their rivals across the Tasman Sea after routing New Zealand, 115-57. On Tuesday, the Kiwis beat Samoa, 78-70.

On the boys side, Australia obliterated Samoa, 131-24, and New Zealand humbled Guam, 125-54, last Tuesday. The Federated States of Micronesia also beat PNG, 85-75, yesterday.

NMI 90 – Chavez 40, Fatialofa 36, Abuan 9, Navarro 5.
PNG 73 – Maikai 34, Hekwa 19, Hane 18, Kelsa 2.
Scoring by halves: 19-11, 32-30, 58-46, 90-73.

PNG 99 – Maikai 52, Yangomina 13, Nou 11, Bray 11, Sabadi 6, Maroroa 5, Keple 1.
NMI 85 – Lucero 24, Lerio 13, Navarro 13, Regalado 12, Sablan 10, Pineda 4, Diaz 4, Han 2, Mercado 2, Sylmark 1.
Scoring by quarters: 17-16, 40-38, 73-55, 99-85.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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