‘Underdog’ NMI teams off to Micro Cup

Posted on Jun 08 2022

The CNMI men’s and women’s national basketball teams pose for a group photo during a send-off event Monday night at the NMSA conference room inside the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium. (MARK RABAGO)

The CNMI men’s and women’s national basketball teams flew to Guam yesterday morning to compete in the 2022 FIBA Micronesian Cup set starting today at the UOG Calvo Fieldhouse.

But before leaving for the neighboring U.S. territory, the players were treated to inspirational messages from officials of the Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation Monday night during a send-off event at the NMSA conference room inside the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.

“There’s not really much to say but just go out there and play with your hearts, right. Treat every minute, every quarter as the last quarter of your last game. Because that’s what most of you guys have been training for,” said NMIBF president James Lee.

He also asked the players to put all distractions aside and just concentrate on representing the CNMI as best they can.

“Last thing I have to say is I personally like being the underdog whenever I compete because I have nothing to lose. I’m not the one who’s supposed to be pressured. When you guys go down there, just play your game. You know who you are. We—the federation and the coaches—trust each and every one of you. We believe in you guys,” Lee added. 

NMIBF vice president Dave Apatang said he witnessed first hand as assistant coach of the women’s team how everyone worked hard this past year  to prepare for competition. 

“I want you guys to take a moment and embrace the feeling of accomplishment. If those nerves do creep up and I’m sure it will as you are sitting alone packing up, just remember what a player once told us: It’s not nerves, it’s excitement…let’s take that determined mindset to the games and represent the CNMI. We are proud of you all, all of you. We will be cheering our lungs out as you attempt to bring home the gold. Go Team NMI!”

Women’s team captain Madeleine Alegre thanked sponsors, supporters, friends, family, and the NMIBF for supporting them on their journey this past year. 

“Without all of you we wouldn’t have progressed this far as a team and as individuals. Everyone has had a hand in our growth and we thank you for trusting us in representing our home and we can make all of you very proud!” she said.

Men’s team captain Coby Santos echoed Alegre when he also thanked NMIBF for supporting the men’s and women’s teams. 

“We’ll try to do our best to represent the NMI and hopefully we can bring home the medals!” he said.

Northern Marianas Sports Association president Jerry Tan also sent a video message to the players and coaches as he’s currently in Tokyo, Japan for business. 

“I’m so happy that the NMI basketball team is making an important trip to Guam to play in the FIBA Micro Cup. Despite not being one of the nine sports in the Pacific Mini Games, I’m happy that basketball is still competing at a very high level this June.”

He also wished both teams good luck in their four-day competition in Guam. 

“For Team NMI, the men’s and the women’s [teams], the coaches, officials, as well as players who’ve put in many, many hours of training, practice, and made all the sacrifices in order to prepare for this tournament, good luck in Guam and fight hard for the NMI!”

Aside from Santos, making up the CNMI Men’s National Basketball Team are Donovan Brennan, Eli Aughenbaugh, Chioni Dela Cruz, Greg Sablan, Leo Naraja, Shane Deleon Guerrero, Lucio Aldan, Frankie Satur, Jeff Castro, and Sir Lashu Dela Cruz.

Along with Alegre, the CNMI Women’s National Basketball Team is made up of Marlene Lumabi, Michelle and Richelle Kautz, Kaia Travilla, Azriel Fatialofa, Fiona Bucalig, Angellyn Roligat, Destiny Pangilinan, Gabrielle Race, and E’Anna and Ky’Sonne Won. 

The men’s head coach is Joseph “Joe” Diaz and he’s being assisted by Keith Nabors and Sha Aina Mendoza.

For the women, Catherine Attao-Toves serves as head head coach with the aforementioned Apatang and Vinalyn Simram serving as her coaching lieutenants. Ethan Kwan is the teams’ manager.

The 2022 FIBA Micronesian Cup kicks off tomorrow at 12:15pm with the men’s game between Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. It will be followed by the 2:15pm game pitting the FSM women’s team against their counterparts from Palau.

The CNMI women’s will play next at 4:45pm when they take on the women’s team of Guam followed by the CNMI men’s-Guam men’s tussle at 7pm.

The next day on Thursday, the CNMI men’s and women’s teams will battle Palau, while teams from the FSM will duke it out against Guam.

In the tournament’s penultimate day on Friday, the CNMI will take on FSM and Palau will face Guam. The Top 2 teams will then clash in the championship game on Saturday with the No. 3 and No. 4 teams squaring off for the battle for third place.

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

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.