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Articles

It's hoops gold for Guam - Jul 14, 2015


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Tai Wesley
Team Guam won the hearts of the fans - then won the gold. Playing in front of a packed house chanting 'Gu-wam, Gu-wam,' the Guam men's national basketball team defeated Fiji 78-61 to claim the gold medal in a talent-packed field of teams. The victory ends a 36-year drought in which Guam has made numerous gold medal games, but was unable to come out the victor. That victory came in 1979 at the South Pacific Games in Suva, Fiji. With big-man Tai Wesley (200-F-86, college: Utah St.) in foul trouble, team captain William Stinnett (186-G-86, college: Wenatchee Valley CC) carried more of the offensive load with 18 points - the most he's scored all tournament. Teammate Joe Blas led all scorers with 21 points. Guam was able to fight off an imposing Fiji team that used three players over 6'4' to start the match. The strategy frustrated Guam's players as the Fijians would feed the ball to Marques Whippy (193-PF-86, college: BYU-Hawaii), Joshua Fox (198-F) or Mataika Koyamainavura who used their height to attack the rim. Guam head coach Edward Calvo countered that attack inserting Jonathan Galloway into the lineup. Galloway's defense forced Fiji to alter shots under the rim and kick the ball out - or get blocked. Guam built a 10-point lead at halftime and maintained a 51-44 lead prior to the start of the final quarter. And although they built up a 14-point lead with just five minutes to go, the Fijians were never truly out of the match until JP Cruz hit the last of his four three-pointers to lead 66-49 with 3:50 left on the clock. With just 2:03 left in the match, Galloway put an exclamation point on the victory with an alley-oop dunk from Wesley that brought the crowd to its feet and the game out of reach at 70-55. 'Three and a half years working out and it all paid off,' said assistant coach Danny Payumo. 'This was the goal. Thanks for all the support, from all the wives and all the girlfriends that stood by this team, all the family members. But really, a lot of it goes to their wives and girlfriends who put up with a lot of time being spent on the basketball court and putting in the work.' The win was one that they could be proud of, said Guam National Olympic Committee President Rick Blas. 'These guys worked real hard for it and I'm very proud of them. They stayed in it and stayed focused,' he said. 'Everyone played their hearts out and they deserve this win.' Blas said it was one of the biggest moments for the island, because so many times Guam got so close, but fell short. 'With Jonathan and Tai complimenting the rest of the team, they did really well. I'm proud of them - especially for Seve (Susuico) - his father was in the '75 team (on Guam) and now he's taken over.' It was a long road back to the gold after finishing in second too many times, according to Susuico. 'I've got three silvers now and one gold,' said Susuico. 'It's the best feeling ever! It feels good to be on this side and not on that side over there for once. It's the best feeling in the world. Now me and my Dad have three golds - we're even now.' According to Edward Calvo , the team was prepared for a dogfight with Fiji and wasn't going to relax down the stretch. 'We knew the first half was going to be tight. (Fiji) was in the gold medal match for a reason, so we weren't expecting to run away with the game - we knew it was going to be a grind,' he said. 'We weren't worried if we were down by a few points, or up by a few points, we just wanted to continue executing.' Edward Calvo reminded his team that they had to come out with more conviction after the first half, because Fiji put Guam on the ropes in their earlier match, which Guam won by overtime 75-72. 'When we finally went on a real run in the third quarter, we were able hold it this time. That was the main thing. They came back on us earlier in the tournament and we didn't want that to happen again.' The win has a special place in Edward Calvo 's heart - Edward Calvo was on the 2007 team that lost to Fiji in Noumea, New Caledonia. 'They beat us in the gold so this win is a great feeling. There are some guys on this team that have lost three gold medal games in the past and we finally won one. It puts Guam basketball on the next level of FIBA qualifiers, so we're ready for what comes next.' For now, the players will enjoy the win and bring the gold medal back to the island and its people, according to Susuico. 'This was for the people of Guam. Everything we do is for the people of Guam, he said.
Courtesy of: guampdn.com   




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