For the third straight day, Guam’s U17 boys and girls national basketball teams struggled in New Caledonia. However, they are improving. 

After getting clobbered against Australia and New Zealand in the first two days of U17 Oceania FIBA Championships pool play in Group A, Day 3 was a bit kinder.

Avoiding a third straight triple-digit loss, on Wednesday, the Guam U17 Girls’ National Basketball Team improved against Samoa. While Guam still lost, the 81-51 defeat had players stepping up. 

Jimmy Yi, Team Guam head coach, described the loss as a “great game overall.”

“We played great, shot the ball well, created turnovers, (and) had fun,” he said. 

For Guam, going up against the other teams has been a tall order. Unable to take away the middle, Guam’s paint belonged to Samoa. 

“Samoa’s shortest player is as tall as our tallest player,” Yi said. “Our size is small.”

Leading Guam’s offense, Alana Salas scored 17 points. Cori-Nicole Paulino, Guam’s second scoring option, chipped in with 12 points. 

Today, at 4 p.m. (Guam time), Guam takes on Tahiti. 

In the boys’ competition, the U17 Boys’ National Basketball Team lost to Samoa, 93-40.

"The only positive we could take away from this (is), life lessons," said Brent Tipton, Team Guam head coach. "It's a very tough and humbling experience to play in three straight games where we get beat by such a large margin. 

"Losing is tough. Life can be tough at times, as well, but the most important thing is for us, as a group, is to respond with grit and (possess) a growth mindset," he added. "When the sun comes up tomorrow, it’s a brand new day and we cannot stay attached to the mistakes and outcome of our game vs. Samoa."

The smaller, less physical Guam squad had no answer for Samoa’s size. For all four quarters, Samoa won the battle in the trenches. Also dominating on the boards, Samoa crushed Guam, 65-37.

"They were just as long and athletic as New Zealand," Tipton said. "They were physical and athletic. Despite us giving max effort on box outs and fighting for inside position, their strength was overwhelming. Samoa has done a great job in putting a program together the last two Oceania Championships."

Leading Guam’s offense, Isaiah Malig scored 11 points. Elijah Garrido, chipping in, finished with 6 points and seven rebounds.

Going for their first win, Guam plays Tahiti today at 6 p.m. (Guam time). 

The tournament is the first step toward qualifying for the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup. The top two finishers, in the boys and girls divisions, will advance to the 2020 FIBA U18 Asian Championship.

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