“This was the toughest BOMI Ralik Ratak Shootout in my era,” said Tournament Director Rickiano Antibas Tuesday after championship night at the SSG Solomon Sam Memorial Court at CMI. The crowd, estimated at well over 1,000 — sitting on top of cars, in the backs of pickups, on apartment walkways across the street, and packed like sardines in a can around the court — could hardly dispute Rickiano’s assessment of the 16th national basketball tournament.
Maloelap and Aelonlaplap kicked things off Tuesday with a match up for third place that was won on a Steph Curry style buzzer beater with no time remaining on the clock. These two teams were locked in head to head combat for 39 minutes and 55 seconds, with the result: tie score, 61-all. An Aelonlaplap player was fouled and went to the line for two free throws, making one. Aelonlaplap 62-61, five seconds to go. Maloelap inbounds, pressed on defense by Aelonlaplap, gets the ball to mid-court with a second left on the clock. Maleolap’s Junjun Bellu, just two steps over the half court line, launched a bomb to the basket…time expired as the ball sailed through the basket, touching nothing but net. Final score: Maloelap 64-Aelonlaplap 62.
Not to be outdone by the men’s third place game, the Aur-Maloelap women’s championship went into high gear from the tipoff. Aur took a quick lead, then Maloelap charged back to take it away, followed by the teams trading baskets until the final minutes of play when Aur pulled away to win 67-53.
And what more can you say about the final, the grand and ongoing match up between defending champ Lae and previous years’ runner up Majuro? Multiple offensive and defensive strategies deployed, acrobatic display of basketball talent by players on the two best teams on island, all cheered onward by a crowd going wild after each basket, block or steal.
No surprise then that the game was tied 80-80 as the last seconds ticked off to zero. Lae’s Yuzzi Maddison did what you’d expect this “shake and bake” point guard to do: he drove to the bucket and was fouled on the shot with four seconds on the clock. Yuzzi missed the first, but tanked the second free throw to seal Lae’s defense of its championship status: 81-80.
Cash prizes and trophies were awarded to each of the three top teams by Bank of Marshall Islands representative/Majuro Councilman Arlington Tibon and Marshall Islands Basketball Federation officials.
Read more about this in the October 14, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.