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MIBT pushed back to Friday - Apr 20, 2004

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The unfortunate last-minute withdrawal of two teams has forced organizers to push back the start of the 2004 Mariana Islands Basketball Tournament on Tinian from this morning to Friday, April 22.

Basketball Association of the Northern Mariana Islands president Elias Rangamar said Guam and Rota have pulled out of the competition citing different reasons. It now leaves Saipan and Tinian to contest the championship of the supposedly yearly event.

According to Rangamar Guam pulled out because its basketball officials, including the coaches of their 18-and-under team, were not able to file administrative leave. Rota, meanwhile, said that it failed to fundraise enough money to send a team to the tournament.

"It's too bad that Guam and Rota have decided to cancel their participation in the last minute. It would've been a great tournament with teams from the two islands there, but we will make do with what we have and will carry on the MIBT, although we have to postpone it by a couple of days," he said.

In lieu of teams from Guam and Rota, Rangamar said he has accepted the inclusion of a second Saipan team to MIBT. The said team is coached by 2002 Saipan Blue coach Ryan Nisperos and made up by a majority of his players in the Rotary and IVYBL leagues.

"With a potential powerhouse like Guam out of the way, the two Saipan teams and the other two teams from the host island of Tinian would battle it out in the tournament. Tinian could pull off a few surprises, they say Tinian has a very competitive high school team and an athletic junior squad," added Rangamar.

The MIBT will kick off with an opening ceremony starting at 9am Friday at the Tinian Gymnasium in San Jose. The tournament will resume Saturday and will hold its championship on Sunday.

This marks the second time teams from Guam and Rota have pulled out of the MIBT. Last year, the two islands canceled their participation from the tournament after their islands were ravaged by tropical storm Pongsona.

In 2002, the Saipan Red team coached by former BANMI president Rufino Aguon ran away with the championship after beating Guam in the finals.


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