MANILA, Philippines – Jericho Cruz and Guam got off to a rough start in their campaign in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers following a 94-113 home loss to New Zealand on Sunday, February 24.
Guam was on pace for a massive upset after holding a slim 24-22 lead in the opening quarter but fizzled out in the middle periods as New Zealand swept the first window of Group C for a 2-0 record.
Bouyed by its 108-98 win over defending champion Australia, New Zealand outscored Guam 64-43 in the middle quarters to turn the tides.
Cruz, who plays for the NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA, started for Guam and saw action for 28 points but he was limited to 4 points on a 2-of-8 shooting clip.
The 29-year-old Cruz, who holds a Philippine-Guam dual citizenship, also tallied 5 assists and 4 rebounds.
Shea Ili paced New Zealand with 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists as 5 of his teammates also finished in double figures in scoring.
Reuben Te Rangi had 17 points, Jordan Ngatai had 14 points, while Dion Prewster and Ethan Rusbatch chipped in 12 points apiece in the win.
Earnest Lee Ross delivered 21 points and former PBA import Curtis Washington put up 19 points and 10 rebounds for Guam, which dropped to a 0-1 card.
Guam will play Hong Kong at a later date after their supposed February 20 meeting was postponed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.