By Rob Leon Guerrero
Guam’s senior men’s team completed their perfect run in the Micronesian Basketball Tournament beating Palau in the championship game Saturday afternoon at the UOG Field House. In a game where they were heavily favored to win, Guam managed to pull away in the second quarter en route to a final score of 88-69. Despite the lob-sided score, Palau played a very intense game, often times frustrating Guam into turnovers. However a huge surge by the host nation would be too overwhelming to handle, giving Guam the victory.
Much like their play throughout the tournament, Guam found trouble early on adjusting to the defense of Palau. A three-point play by Lester Mendoza gave Palau the early lead 5-6. Guam guard Willie Stinnett picked up two early fouls, forcing him off the court as Palau looked to capitalize on his absence. Guam managed to maintain their slim lead in the first quarter after a pair of assists from Joe Blas to Reggie Rechebong and John Chaco off of inbound plays. While Guam’s defense was able to keep the Palau attack at bay, their inability to convert on fast break opportunities kept Palau within striking distance. With Guam leading 16-10, Palau continued their outstanding rebounding game, securing multiple looks at the basket resulting in a 7-2 run and cutting Guam’s lead to 20-19 midway through the second quarter. This would be as close as they would come to the lead, as Guam looked to push the pace behind Blas, going into halftime leading Palau 35-26.
The second half began with Palau unable to find an answer to the combined efforts of Blas and Stinnett. The pair combined for 10 of Guam’s first 14 points in the second half and sparking a stifling defense that limited Palau to five points for most of the third quarter. Unfortunately for Palau, they continued to struggle to find points as Guam’s defense began to turn up the pressure. Despite Guam pulling away, the fourth quarter gave way to an exciting game as Mendoza and Douglas Schmidt Jr. led Palau on a shooting spree, outscoring Guam 31-27 in the final period and exciting the appreciative fans in attendance. A strong fourth quarter performance from reserve guard James Stake secured the comfortable win for Guam.
The pair of Blas and Stinnett expressed their experience with the tournament, with both commenting on the lack of preparation that the team had to gel together. “I had just come back before the tournament started, so the first few games, we were just trying to get a feel for playing with each other,” Stinnett said, “and we were able to gel and we played well.”
“It was tough because we only had two weeks together as a team,” Blas explained, “but we came out here and we represented for Guam, which is what we wanted to do”
Blas led Guam with 18 points, 5 assists and 3 steals, while Stinnett had a well-rounded game contributing 12 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Mendoza scored a game-high 20 points for Palau while Schmidt chipped in 16 in the loss.
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