Guam didn't fare well against New Zealand, one of the top two teams in the region, in pool play Tuesday at the U17 Oceania FIBA Championships in New Caledonia.
The games were tough and hard-fought against taller, more physical opponents. Guam is competing in Group A in both divisions, which includes Australia, New Zealand and Samoa. The Aussies and Kiwis are the top two teams in the region.
Teams will be expecting to bring their best game to the hardwood as the FIBA U17 Oceania Championship is also the first step to qualifying in the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup. The top two finishers will qualify for the 2020 FIBA U18 Asian Championship.
In the women's game, Team Guam doubled their offensive output but still struggled against the height and physicality of New Zealand, losing their second pool play game 110-18. Myka Terlaje led the Guam offense with 5 points, while Alana Salas added 3 points and three boards in the effort.
Their next game, today, will be played at 3 p.m. against Samoa, who lost to Australia 99-8. With the two powerhouses in the league, the smaller island nations historically have struggled to gain an advantage over the bigger countries who boast a more structured program with unlimited resources and funding for their training facilities and coaching staff.
In the men's game, Guam lost to New Zealand 104-19. Against Australia, Guam shot roughly 40% from the 3-point line. While they still got their shots, Team Guam struggled to find the rim, shooting 17% overall and roughly 15% for the long ball. They play Samoa at 5 p.m. today.
Facing the top two opponents in the tournament can be daunting, but Guam is looking forward and seeing positives in their game.
The Guam women are just focused on getting "better every day, that's all," said head coach Jimmy Yi. "We are very small in size."
According to Yi, the girls played better against New Zealand and he fully expects them to be competitive against Samoa.
"We are certainly in a tough pool," said men's head coach Brent Tipton. "Opening up against the 10th-ranked team in the world was a great test to see how we match up."
According to Tipton, the Australians have seven Division I collegiate-bound players and one who will suit up for the National Basketball League.
Tipton said he is focused on elements of the game they can control, considering Australia and New Zealand outmatch them on size and athleticism.
"We wanted to measure a few things ... that wouldn't necessarily reflect on the scoreboard but would be small victories for our guys," Tipton said.
For the men's program, there is a bigger picture, Tipton said, emphasizing the tournament outcome is only one portion.
The immediate goal, Tipton added, is to peak on the fourth day when they play the lower-tiered countries.
"We are using the elite competition of playing Australia and New Zealand to help us prepare for this," he said. "We are going to get a lot better playing the best competition in the world, and we are thankful that we get this opportunity. ... Getting better with each game is always going to be our priority."
Another goal at this tournament is to educate the local athletes and open them up to opportunities of playing at the collegiate level, Tipton said.
"Guam Basketball Confederation's goal is to provide a pathway for our athletes to play collegiately," he said, adding that playing high-caliber opponents allows the team to assess where they are in terms of development and understand the work necessary to achieve at the next level.
"This is also a great opportunity for us coaches to evaluate what's needed in both our boys athleticism and skill acquisition to help conceptually prepare them to compete consistently at the highest level," Tipton said.
Good competition is key to raising the level of play.
The Guam men will focus on being more consistent and improving decision-making on the court, he said.
"The opportunity to play in the U17 FIBA Oceania Championships is one we are thankful for," Tipton said. "We will diligently work hard to rightly represent our island of Guam."