The Rollers 2 held off Hi-5's big fourth quarter rally to keep its unblemished record in the U20 division of the 21st Annual Rotary Club of Saipan Youth Basketball League.
Hi-5 gave its all in last Wednesday's game at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium, but fell a little short as its fifth loss in seven games was by far the hardest to chew, while Rollers 2 rolled to its seventh win in as many games.
At one point, Hi-5 trailed by only a deuce, 31-33, with about a minute and a half left on the clock when a crafty timeout and a costly technical foul off an unsportsmanlike conduct, which occurred with less than 20 seconds left in regulation, disrupted its strategy.
Short on time, Hi-5 had its back to the wall and had to foul to get the ball back. The tactic worked early on, but Rollers 2 later read the ploy and called a timeout to move the ball to its side of the court and strategically placed its shooters on the floor to carry out a written play.
Hi-5 knew it had to continue fouling in order to stay alive, so Frank Macahito hacked the Rollers 2's Michael Espinosa moments after the latter received the inbounds pass, but the former was slapped with a technical foul for the tough infraction.
Espinosa drained both shots and his teammate JP Iglesias dropped in a final pair from the stripe soon after to put it away for the Rollers 2.
Though it was not exactly its prettiest victory, hats off to the Rollers 2 for making its free throws in the final seconds to preserve the streak.
Both teams started slow, as they felt each other out and the Rollers 2 came away on the top side of a paper-thin margin, 8-7, after getting 4 points each from Irvyn Malonzo and Jeron Ano.
Ano added a pair of baskets in the second quarter and shooting guard CJ Morales chimed in 3 points, as the Rollers 2 managed some breathing room at halftime, 17-12.
Hi-5's captain Frank Macahito made a couple of buckets in the first quarter, but went cold in the second and the team drew only three free throws from Leo Cristobal to face a 5-point halftime deficit. Points came at a premium in what turned out to be a defensive contest in the second canto and though Hi-5 trailed since essentially in the first three minutes of the game, it managed to keep the stakes to just two possessions, heading into the break.
Malonzo took the reins for the Rollers 2 when they returned to the floor and scored all of his team's 10 points in the third quarter. However, Hi-5 received contributions from five different players on the other end, as it fought its way back to within a basket, 25-27.
Emerson Feria led the charge for Hi-Five with his 6 points, while Christobal and Richard Hofschneider made free throws before the third quarter buzzer to keep the Rollers 2 within striking distance.
The Rollers 2 managed to cling to its lead throughout the fourth quarter, as Malonzo, Morales and Prince Factor mustered 7 markers against Hi-5's defensive front that just would not go away.
Malonzo bobbed and weaved for a game-high 18 points, while Feria led Hi-5's heartbreaker with his 10 markers.
Rollers 2 39 - Malonzo 18, Ano 8, Morales 8, Espinosa 2, Factor 2, Iglesias 2, Nakayama. 1
Hi-5 33 - Feria 10, Macahito 6, Hockett 6, Cristobal 4, Hofschneider 4, Cabaltica 3.
Scoring by quarters: 8-7, 17-12, 27-25, 39-33.