The CNMI Women’s National Team settled for the silver medal after falling to host Guam, 37-70, in the championship game of the 2022 FIBA Micronesian Cup last Saturday at the UOG Calvo Fieldhouse.
Earlier in the day, the CNMI Men’s National Team salvaged the bronze medal after repeating against the Federated States of Micronesia, 82-78.
In the women’s game, the top-ranked Guam team got off to a jackrabbit start and led 20-12 after the first quarter. They then limited their northern neighbors to a mere 6 points in the second to take a 42-18 spread at the half.
The Guamanians continued to pour it on in the third, scoring 11 points while giving up only 5 points as they were in complete control of the match, 53-23, heading into the payoff period. It was all over but the shouting come the fourth quarter even as the host team allowed the visitors to score 14 points the final 10 minutes of the final match.
Mia San Nicolas led Guam in the gold medal with 20 points, while Elysia Perez added 15 markers. Only E’Anna Won hit double digits for the CNMI with 16 markers, while point guard Destiny Pangelinan added 7 in the loss.
CNMI Women’s National Team head coach Catherine Attao-Toves said overall she’s proud of her wards’ performance during the entire tournament.
“I’m very proud of the team. The first game we came out and played against Guam and I’m really glad we had them as our first game. Specifically because they gave us a chance to really reevaluate what we need to do and what we need to work on so we could be contenders,” she said.
After the 94-46 loss to Guam in the first game, the CNMI bounced back with wins over Palau (74-53) and FSM (110-28) that set up the gold medal match against Guam.
“Everybody knows Guam is a powerhouse in the region in basketball and you know there’s a lot of things we could definitely learn from them and we did when we played against them. Going into our second game against Palau we started off very slow and it was challenging and a bit frustrating. I’m glad that we were able to come back and actually start to play like we know how when the players finally started to get their groove and found their spots on the court. They started to have a lot more fun and it was fun to watch them play.”
Attao-Toves said even after beating Palau, the team didn’t rest on their laurels and take FSM lightly.
“I’ve learned definitely in basketball to never underestimate your opponent and so we went into the FSM game understanding that if we have a tied record with Palau it goes down to point differential. Unfortunately, we had to match the margin that Palau beat FSM. I really didn’t like that lopsided score but another lesson we learned from NMIBF president James Lee was his experience back in the day where they didn’t take the point system seriously and they missed advancing into the medal round by just a fraction of a point. So, we didn’t want to do that as we’ve come too far to get to this point and so the biggest thing was we just stayed focus and tried to match Palau’s winning margin against FSM,” she said.
The CNMI Men’s National Team, for its part, followed up back-to-back losses to Guam (113-45) and Palau (72-57) with two straight wins against FSM to take home the bronze medal.
On Friday, the wards of coach Joe Diaz needed overtime to beat FSM, 87-84. In the rematch the day after in the bronze medal game, both teams again fought tooth and nail with the CNMI taking a 14-13 lead in the first 10 minutes of action. FSM, however, took the driver’s seat in the middle quarters of the third place contest, 33-32 and 47-45, before Chioni Dela Cruz preserved the CNMI’s victory in the waning seconds with clutch free throws.
Dela Cruz top-scored for the CNMI with 32 points as he finally found his stroke after misfiring in the first two games against Guam and Palau. Coby Santos, the team’s most consistent performer throughout the tourney, added 17 markers. FSM was led by the 22 points of A.J. Bisalen.
Diaz said he’s happy with the bronze medal the men’s team won in the FIBA Micro Cup.
“Coming into the tournament we only had one veteran and that’s Coby Santos and now we gave bunch of experienced guys. I’m glad that they went out and competed and got more experience in this top-of-the-line tournament. Now, they know what they’re going to face because they’ve been through the FIBA Micro Cup which was a really tough and high-caliber tournament.”
The Garapan Rollers founder added that his wards also found out that playing in tournaments like the FIBA Micro Cup is 90% mental and 10% physical preparedness.
He also acknowledged that the game against Palau was winnable if only they made their free throws, boxed out for rebounds, and made shots from 3-point territory.
“We’re a small team so we lived and died with our 3-point shooting…but the boys really did good for the whole year as they really stood by the program,” he said.
In the men’s final Saturday night, Guam ran roughshod over Palau, 93-45. With their gold medal wins in the FIBA Micro Cup, Guam’s men’s and women’s teams will represent the region in the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Guam 70 – San Nicolas 20, Perez 15, Duenas 9, Stinnet 7, Han 4, Miranda 4, Dacanay 4, Paulino 3, Taitano 2, Quantanilla 2.
CNMI 37 – E. Won 16, Pangelinan 7, K. Won 6, M. Kautz 4, Race 2, Alegre 2.
Scoring by quarters: 20-12. 42-18, 53-23, 70-37.
CNMI 82 – C. Dela Cruz 32, Santos 17, S. Dela Cruz 9, Deleon Guerrero 7, Sablan 6, Augenbaugh 4, Castro 3, Aldan 2, Naraja 2.
FSM 78 – Bisalen 22, Palik 13, Weilbacher 12, Waayan 9, Sebastian 7, Martin 7, Gaan 6, Clarence 2.
Scoring by quarters: 14-13, 32-33, 45-47, 82-78.