(NMIBF) —  The Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation concluded the middle school competition in the IT&E Interscholastic Basketball League by recognizing the event’s sponsors and winners.

NMIBF president James Lee and vice president David John Apatang presented a plaque of appreciation to title sponsor IT&E and two other league supporters — the Public School System and the Tan Siu Lin Foundation.

IT&E executive director for customer operations Rob Harrel, acting Education Commissioner Eric Magofna, and TSL Foundation executive director Merlie Tolentino accepted the plaques, as the three officials were joined by Northern Marianas Sports Association president Jerry Tan in the opening ceremony for the playoff round of the competition Friday at the Marianas High School Gymnasium.*

“On behalf of the NMIBF board, Si Yu'us Ma'ase and thank you for your generosity and support to this program,” Lee said.

“IT&E is sponsoring not just one competition, but all five of them and their support made it possible for us to provide trophies and medals to the schools/teams. TSL Foundation also provided our officials uniforms, while the PSS leadership through athletic director Nick Gross continues to include basketball in the annual interscholastic program.  Thank you all for providing opportunities for our young players,” Lee added.

Motivation

The NMIBF awarded trophies to champion Grace Christian Academy, second placer Francisco M. Sablan Middle School, and third finisher Hopwood Middle School 2. Players of GCA Eagles also received medals.

GCA principal Beth Nunez joined the Eagles in the presentation of trophies and medals and was pleased with the individual and team awards. GCA defeated FMS in the finals, 30-12.

“We are so grateful to the NMI Basketball Federation and IT&E for providing medals to each players this season.  Each of the girls on the team worked hard and gave their all during the many hours of practice and during the games. It means so much to us, the girls, and their families that each was recognized for her hard work, dedication, and commitment. The championship belongs to the whole team,” Nunez said.

The FMS Napu Riders, who were seeded third in the playoffs and stunned Hopwood 2 in the semis, 13-12, were also happy to bring home a trophy despite falling short in their title bid.

“Last two years ago, I was actually the coach over at Chacha Oceanview Middle School, and our team was undefeated till the very end where Hopwood beat us,” FMS head coach Nadia Murphy said. “My players were sad because they worked so hard in practice and played in the games with positive attitudes, but did not get anything in the end. Then I moved to FMS, and of course it seemed like we didn't have a chance especially because we didn't have subs. But the girls were proud of themselves and I do, too because they made it that far. They were happy that they were also recognized and as a coach I am happy that all our hard work was worth it,”

Murphy was assisted by Ezekiel Macario and Angel San Nicolas.

“Other than bringing a physical trophy back to the school, I would say having second and third place trophies alongside first place builds a positive environment while increasing team and individual confidence. It can also help with team motivation,” Macario said.

The NMIBF would like to thank all the participating teams and league and school officials for making the first competition in the interscholastic program a success. Next up for NMIBF and IT&E is the girls high school games later this month.

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