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GUAM SUFFERS HEARTBREAKER

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By Patrick Lujan

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So close!

Team Guam used some late-game heroics by shooting guard JP Cruz, only to lose a heart-breaking buzzer-beater 77-75 to New Zealand Tuesday night in the semifinals of the FIBA Pacific Championships in Porirua, New Zealand.

Trailing 75-69  with :17 left in the game, Cruz – Guam’s version of Allen Iverson – hit two crucial three-pointers down the stretch to tie it up at 75-75 with only nine ticks on the clock.

“We felt we had the momentum,” Guam veteran leader Jin Han said about the tie. “(The 3’s) were huge!”

After a New Zealand timeout, Guam big man Mekeli Wesley blocked a drive that went out of bounds with just two seconds left.

Overtime was within reach.

With the inbounds pass coming underneath the Maori basket, the results happened so quickly: a missed shot followed by an offensive putback by Aaron Bailey-Powell at the buzzer.

Heart-breaking loss!

“We all feel that we let this game slip away,” Han said after the tough loss.

Team Guam breaks the huddle before their semifinal game against New Zealand on Tuesday. (photo by Danny Payumo)

Team Guam breaks the huddle before their semifinal game against New Zealand on Tuesday. (photo by Danny Payumo)

It was a a true back-and-forth contest.

After a close first quarter that saw the Maori take a 20-16 lead, New Zealand jumped out to their largest lead at 36-24 midway through the second quarter.

Guam then went on a 17-2 run to take the lead early in the third quarter.

Four ties and four lead changes occurred in that period that ended with New Zealand ahead 60-58.

The Maori held on to the slim edge throughout the final quarter, finally taking a six-point lead with under a minute to go before Cruz’s heroics.

Cruz led Guam’s scoring with 19 points while Wesley added 18 and Joe Blas chipped in with 15 points.

It was Guam’s second loss on a buzzer-beater. The first was to Australia in pool play.

Guam now plays Samoa for the bronze medal on Wednesday at noon, Chamorro Standard Time.

UPDATE: Guam wins bronze with a 88-76 win over Samoa in the FIBA Pacific Championships

Mekeli Wesley 24 pts
JP Cruz/Joe Blas 13 pts
Willie Stinnett 12 pts

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