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GUAM HOLDS OFF FEISTY RMI

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By Rob Leon Guerrero

Joe Blas, who led the Guam offense with 28 points, fights through the defense of RMI’s Nathaniel Lometo. (photo by Jesse Castro)

The two remaining unbeaten teams in the Micronesian Basketball Tournament faced off Tuesday night at the UOG Field House as hundreds of fans were treated to an incredible matchup in the men’s division between Guam and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

A fierce game of overwhelming defense and physical play bordering on assault, Guam recovered from a halftime deficit to beat RMI 76-62 in front of a crowd that favored the latter.

From the tip-off the Marshallese came out the quicker team and looked to push the pace against their bigger opponents, but was unsuccessful as Guam’s lengthy defenders managed to disrupt their rhythm, leading to turnovers and forcing RMI on their back foot early in the game.

Trailing 14-6, RMI employed its full-court press, frustrating Guam’s players into careless turnovers. With less than a minute left in the first quarter, Keoki Pinho made two putbacks amid the towering Guam defense to give the Marshall Islands its largest lead of the game by seven, but two great assists from Guam reserve Reggie Rechebong to Seve Susuico and Sandy Fejeran saw Guam recover the lead 23-21.

The first half also saw a lot of chippy play from both teams, which the officials seemed more than willing to tolerate. Feeding off the energy of the crowd, the Marshall Islands dominated the second quarter on defense, further frustrating Team Guam. A deep three-pointer from sharpshooter Bolear Bokna delighted the crowd and put RMI up by four, but Guam’s Earvin Jose answered back with a three of his own to keep Guam within striking distance. Marshall Islands’ defense, however, would give Guam problems throughout the first half and they went into halftime leading the host team 42-38.

Guam’s Sandy Fejeran uses the screen set by John Chaco to get back Frederick Shoniber. (photo by Jesse Castro)

The second half started on a slower note for both teams, as the Marshall Islands maintained their slim lead. Down 49-46, Jose sank another three-pointer to tie the game. From there, Guam completed a 12-point run as Will Stinnett and Joe Blas shredded the Marshallese defense. RMI’s Willis Lamille had an electrifying performance throughout the game, including a three-point play to cut Guam’s lead to 61-54.

However, as Guam continued to break the Marshall Islands defensive press and score, their defense was beginning to once again neutralize the quicker Marshallese team. Two steals from Jose late in the game sealed the win for Guam and handed RMI its first loss of the tournament.

Stinnett credited the Guam coaches for their second half success saying, “we wanted to slow the game down, and make them play defense.”

Sandy Fejeran defends the layup attempt by Nathaniel Lometo Tuesday night. (photo by Jesse Castro)

“We wanted to… spread their defense out, and let myself or Will handle the ball, and either drive or make the play, which we were able to do,” added Blas, who finished with a game-high 28 points.

Stinnett finished with 10 points and five assists, while Earvin Jose contributed 10 points as well, and Rechebong finished with seven points, three assists and two steals off the bench for Guam.

Lamille led the Marshall Islands with 16 points and Frederick Shoniber and Nathaniel Lometo added 13 and 11, respectively.

With playoffs coming up, Stinnett and Blas both recognize that Marshall Islands looks to be a serious competitor.

Blas added, “whoever we face,… we just want to represent Guam.” With the win, Guam remains unbeaten at 4-0 and look to continue their success as they face Guam’s Junior National team tomorrow evening at the field house.

In other games:

Men’s Division

Palau def.Chuuk 77-55

Guam Junior National def. Pohnpei 81-77

Palau def. Pohnpei 105-83

Chuuk def. Yap 90-67

Women’s Division

Marshall Islands def. University of Guam 58-56

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