The Guam men's basketball team put up a valiant effort despite falling to a 113-94 home defeat by New Zealand in their opening Asia Cup qualifier.
The US territory led 24-22 after the opening quarter at Calvo Field House last night but the loss of lynchpin Tai Wesley and the hot hand of Shea Ili, who starred for the visitors with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, proved too much to handle as the Tall Blacks rallied to lead by 13 points at half-time and 19 at three-quarter and full-time.
Earnest Ross top scored for the home side with 21 points while Curtis Washington added 19 points and 10 rebounds on 50 percent shooting.
Guam coach EJ Calvo said despite coming up short, his players never gave up and played 40 hard minutes against a team ranked 49 places above them in the world.
"I can't say anything else about how proud I am of our guys for representing and playing 40 hard minutes," he said.
"We had some bad luck and that's what we're marking it up to in terms of a couple of injuries...that just took out a couple of key players from our rotation and foul trouble happened some times as well, and so we had a few early obstacles, especially in the first half, that were difficult to deal with and our guys kept playing hard regardless."
EJ Calvo said the loss of veteran Tai Wesley, who had six points on three of three shooting before bowing out in the second quarter, was a big blow to the home side.
"He's a key player on our rotation," Calvo said. "Key player not just in terms of scoring but just running the ball offensively through him, creating opportunities for others.
"That definitely hurt us. Obviously we tried to overcome that but we prepared and made a lot of preparations including Tai as part of that. He's a big part of our puzzle and yeah I'm really proud that others stepped up but that's a key missing player for most of the game."
Sunday marked the first time Guam had hosted an international basketball match of this calibre and Calvo praised the collective effort on island to ensure the event went ahead smoothly.
"We just want to thank everyone that made it possible," he said. "Everyone that worked at the University of Guam to set-up the facility - it's our first time to of course host a FIBA level one game of this calibre and it was much more than what happened on the court, a lot going on behind the scenes.
"So I think that was a great job by our organisation, the university and the government coming together to host a game, a sports event, of this calibre."
Guam's opening match away to Hong Kong was postponed by world governing body FIBA last week because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The territory's next Group C qualifier will be another home match against Australia in November, who thrashed Hong Kong 115-52 in Brisbane last night.