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GECKOS ESCAPE FROM PANTHERS

The GW Geckos came away with a narrow victory against the home-team Guam High Panthers during their Monday night showdown in IIAAG boys basketball.

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By Jay Leon Guerrero

The GW Geckos escaped with a narrow 70-64 victory against the Guam High Panthers in the IIAAG high school basketball league avoiding the upset and improving to 10-3 for the season. The Panthers (5-8) shot well from the field but rebounding was an issue for them throughout the game as the Geckos won the battle of the boards collecting 50 total rebounds to 39 boards for the Panthers.

The Gecko guards were unable to finish the game at the free throw line, but their big men collected three offensive rebounds, all from missed free throws, in the final minute of regulation to secure the win.

Mathew Soto and Devin San Agustin came up big in the final minute with their key rebounds and put backs to shut down the Panther comeback. Soto and San Agustin both racked up double-doubles to help the Geckos solidify their playoff chances. The Geckos clinched a playoff spot Monday night and look to earn home court advantage with three games remaining.

Geckos Matt Soto uses post moves to get the bucket through the Panther defense. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Geckos Matt Soto uses post moves to get the bucket through the Panther defense. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

“We worked on our lock down defense and boxed out for the offensive rebounds,” said San Agustin who had 14 points and 13 rebounds. “I give props to the (Panthers) as well, they did a good job also on the boards”. With the clear disadvantage in size, the Panthers all crashed the boards but were still out rebounded by the front court. Gecko head coach Lawrence Luces rotated his front court consisting of three players over 6-feet tall.

“After their big guys fouled out, they were still playing hard. Their guards continued to hustle and never gave up,” said Soto. Soto had 17 points and 16 boards to lead the Geckos.

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The Panthers led at halftime with guards Kurt Edusada and Rodney Taitague Jr leading the offense for a slim 32-30 advantage. The Geckos adjusted after the break going on a 6-0 run led by sixth man Kyle Gaitan to go ahead 38-32. Gaitan got back-to-back lay-ins off mid-court steals prompting Panther head coach Ben Leon Guerrero to burn an early timeout.

Each team had twin brothers with the Panthers’ Kin and Kurt Edusada and the Geckos’ Ethan and Eric Alegre on the court at the same time in the third quarter. Both “DINGA'” duos had highlights in the third period with Kin and Kurt combining for eight points and the Alegre brothers making monster blocks on defense.

Panthers Rodney Taitague converts on the fast-break layup. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Panthers Rodney Taitague converts on the fast-break layup. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The Geckos held on with the single digit lead in the second half. Both teams matched each other and traded baskets until the Panthers got a three-pointer from Doug Grant with two minutes left to start a final run. With 1:25 left in regulation, Taitague got the home crowd cheering after he hit a 14-foot jumper to trail 65-62.

The Panther faithful sensed a comeback with the Geckos unable to hit free throws down the stretch. But with two Panther centers fouled out of the game, Soto and San Agustin had their way in the paint and hustled for offensive rebounds after missed opportunities at the charity stripe.

Soto managed to convert a put back and San Agustin also scored off a feed from Ethan Alegre in the final minute of play. The Panthers missed a three-pointer in the last 20 seconds and guard Lester Gaitan hit both of free throws to help the Geckos escape the upset. The Geckos are searching for home court advantage in the playoffs with the ND Royals, Tiyan Titans, and the FD Friars remaining on the schedule.island fit logo

In the junior varsity game, the Geckos held on to win 76-66. Dreion Lewis scored 23 points for the Panthers, Hezekiah Cruz scored a game high 29 points for the Geckos.

Stats

GW:
Mathew Soto – 17 PTS, 16 REB, 5 AST
Kyle Gaitan – 16 PTS, 3 STL
Devin San Agustin – 14 PTS, 13 REB, 2 BLK
Allen Camacho – 6 PTS, 4 AST, 4 STL

GH:
Rodney Taitague Jr. – 18 PTS, 7 AST, 7 REB, 5 TO
Kin Edusada – 11 PTS, 6 REB
Kurt Edusada – 10 PTS, 5 REB, 2 STL
Robert Kranz – 7 PTS, 3-4 FGP

Team stats:
Rebounds – GW 50, GH 39
3-point percentage – GW 0-5 (0%), GH 4-17 (23.5%)
Free throw percentage – GW 8-25 (32%), GH 18-32 (56.2%)
Blocks – GW 6, GH 2
Turnovers – GW 20, GH 22

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Guam High's Henry Haight Blocks a shot from GWs Kyle Gaitan. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Guam High’s Henry Haight blocks a shot from GW’s Nathaniel Kyle Gaitan. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Panthers Kurt Edusada shoots a three over Geckos Lester Gaitan. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Panthers Kurt Edusada shoots a three over Geckos Lester Gaitan. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Panthers Rodney Taitague controls the ball during a race down court. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Panthers Rodney Taitague controls the ball during a race down court. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

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Sports legend Joe Taitano used to run to school at JFK from his Yigo home and back. He continued this routine up to 1979 when he’d run from home to GW gym and back to practice for the South Pacific Games with the national basketball team. Guam went on to win its second straight SPG gold medal.

 

 

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