The NMI’s boys and girls team won a grand total of one game in the FIBA U15 Oceania Championship Guam 2022 that concluded last Saturday at the University of Guam Calvo Field House.
But at this point, just competing in the regional competition is already a win for the Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation.
“The biggest lesson our kids learned at the FIBA U15 Oceania Championship was that they saw what other countries had to offer in terms of competition. The competition they saw was like no other here. They are now aware and now know what and how to prepare for the next level of competition. It was definitely an eye opener for them. A great experience despite the outcome,” said NMI boys U15 national team manager Mike Mercado.
The NMI U15 boys dropped both their pool play games against the Federated States of Micronesia and Papua New Guinea. The team also lost their two classification games against the same teams (77-68 against FSM and 69-68 against PNG) to finish seventh in the seven-team field. Australia, New Zealand, and Guam finished 1-2-3 in the boys competition.
Mercado said if the CNMI really wants basketball to grow further, then the government should allocate appropriate resources for the sport.
“We have the right coaches and players on island. We just need a dedicated facility. To conclude, we brought our kids down for experience and that is what they got. They made friends with all the nations and the bond they created as a team is irreplaceable.
NMI U15 girls U15 national team head coach Marlene Lumabi couldn’t agree more on Mercado’s assessment.
“The whole U15 championship tournament is a great experience for our U15 girls. They played a total of three teams that were all at a different level which was perfect for the girls. As a coach, I’ve picked up a couple coaching styles from our neighboring region, ranging from warm ups, offensive plays and defensive plays.”
Lumabi said the U15 girls hit pay dirt in pool play when they came back from a double-digit deficit to beat Papua New Guinea, 90-73, to finish 1-1.
The team, however, dropped its last two games against Samoa (135-26) and the same PNG team in the classification game (67-66) to finish sixth place in the six-team tournament topped by Australia. New Zealand won the silver and Samoa beat Guam for the bronze.
“For a program that recently started, we have many adjustments we will need to do. For sure, we will need to level up our workouts and practices. However, we also had a tremendous improvement with the timeframe we had,” said Lumabi.
Despite the boys and girls both finishing in last place, Mercado believes that both teams didn’t leave Guam empty handed.
“As the great Nelson Mandela once said, ‘I either win or I learn!’”