Marianas Interscholastic Sports Organization reigning boys varsity basketball champion Saipan Southern High School Manta Rays are in prime position to catalog a repeat sweep as it heads into this weekend's double-elimination varsity postseason with its flawless record still intact.
SSHS tore through the Mount Carmel School Knights (1-7) last Thursday, 125-52, and was gifted its eighth victory in the regular season by the Kagman High School Ayuyus (4-4) via forfeit in Tuesday's final regular season pairings.
In other varsity results, the second place Marianas High School Dolphins (6-2) survived the Knights this past Monday, 78-58. Eucon International School's Blazers (1-7) complete the field.
In junior varsity play, second-ranked SSHS (5-3) made light work of winless Saipan International School Geckos (0-6) last Thursday, 47-25, and barely warded off a huge fourth quarter rally by KHS (2-5), 28-26, on Tuesday, while first place MHS Dolphins (8-0) finished its run undefeated with a 54-23 rout over SIS on Monday. Agape Christian School's Torchbearers (4-4) complete the field.
And finally in the freshmen division, KHS (2-2) prevailed over SSHS (1-3), 33-23, on Tuesday to finish as the middle child among the grouping's three teams in between frontrunner MHS (3-1) and SSHS.
MISO's varsity playoffs will take place this Friday and Saturday at the MHS Gymnasium and will include both the Rota High School Bucks and the Tinian High School Stallions.
In Tuesday's junior pairing, SSHS worked out a 7-3 advantage in the opening 10 minutes before taking an 18-6 lead in the second quarter.
Tyler Palacios led the bunch in the first exchange with 5 markers and closed out the second period with 4 more that supported Jerwin Raquepo's 6.
After being stuffed with just four free throws and one basket in the first half, KHS' offense stalled again in the third quarter and allowed the Manta Rays to journey further ahead, 24-10, heading into the last stand, but the latter awoke in the clutch and postured a legit run from behind.
The Ayuyus contained SSHS to just two baskets in the final 10 minutes of regulation only to come up just a couple of points shy of forcing overtime, but showed in the end that it had the ability to spread the ball around on the offensive end after all.
Andrew Salas led four other late contributors with 6 points in what turned out to be a nail-biter.
He finished with a team-high 8 points, while SSHS' Palacios set the bar with 13.
In the freshmen feature, KHS' Joseph Taitano got a couple of shots to drop in the first period for an early 6-4 favor and added three more buckets in the second quarter that helped his team pull away, 18-6, at intermission.
He received some help from Michael Muna in the third quarter in the form of 5 markers that kept KHS comfortably in the driver's seat, 25-12, heading into the final 10 minutes and the Ayuyus managed to trade baskets with its opponents as time winded down.
Taitano was held to one basket in the second half though his 12 points still one-upped Muna in the end. Art Borromeo fronted SSHS with 7 points.
In Monday's varsity tiff, MHS nosed out to an early 19-17 lead in the opening frame built off 13 points sewn together by Joseph Aguilar and Erik Dela Rosa.
The Dolphins then extended its lead to 34-27 at the pause as Leo Cristobal came off the bench and paced the group with 6 markers.
MCS' John Gilbert Saludez willed in 15 points in the first half to help keep the Knightrs in contention and then led a big third quarter charge that chopped the Knights' deficit to a point, 52-53, heading into the closing period.
MCS rang in five long range strikes in the burst, three of which came from Saludez whose 12 points helped breath new life into the group. However, in the end the Knights only had enough juice to make the Dolphins sweat a little bit as the latter reclaimed control of the match only a few minutes in to the fourth quarter.
MCS puttered out and was contained to just three buckets in the clutch, while MHS ran away in the end with a 25-point response that consisted of seven backers.
MCS' Saludez gave his all and in many ways stole the show, even in defeat. He finished with an impressive 31 points that overshadowed Dela Rosa's team-high of 24 for the Dolphins.
In the junior match, the Geckos clung to an early 8-4 head start from the tip, but it evaporated quickly in the second frame as Shane Deleon Guerrero-Diaz took over the period, tallying 11 points that slingshot MHS in front, 20-14, at the half.
SIS was then limited to just three markers in the third period as MHS pulled away, 35-17, and the latter coasted to an easy win in the final exchange.
Deleon Guerrero-Diaz led nine co-contributors with 13 points, while Yong Hwang Kim led four SIS players with 10.
SSHS' varsity Manta Rays were all business last Thursday and swiftly hemmed up the Knights, 31-15, in the opening 10 minutes.
Jaymark De Guzman led a well-balanced attack with 9 points that were complemented by 6 points apiece from Joshua Andrews, Emerson Feria, and Edilberto Javier III.
SSHS then inflated its lead to 54-25 at halftime as Feria led four Manta Rays with 8 points in the second quarter. MCS' John Gilbert Saludez managed 12 points through the first two frames, but received meager support from his crew and things went from bad to worse for the Knights after the pause.
MCS faded from SSHS' rear-view early in the third quarter as the latter cannoned ahead, 85-34, heading into the last 10 minutes of regulation and cruised to an easy win.
The Manta Rays held Saludez to one basket in the third quarter as it uncorked a 31-point explosion on the other end led by Jack Aranda, Andrews, and De Guzman who accounted for 19 points that represented the bulk of the knockout blow.
De Guzman's hand remained hot in the closing period as he splashed in three treys for 11 points that gift-wrapped the victory and finished with a game-high 27 points, while MCS' Saludez managed 22 in constraint.
In the junior division contest, Shawn Acopiado and Tyler Palacios pulled the chord for SSHS in the first half with 6 points apiece that helped provide a posh, 18-10, halftime cushion.
The Manta Rays then held the Geckos scoreless in the third quarter as it motored further ahead, 31-10, heading into the closing period and managed to match SIS' output in the fourth quarter.
Palacios led the third quarter uprising with 6 points and sprinkled 4 more on top of his game-high 18 in garbage time as he helped get some teammates involved in the action. SIS' Chris Cepeda scrambled for 11 in the shortcoming.
SSHS 28 - Palacios 13, Raquepo 6, Kintaro 4, Acopiado 2, Reyes 2, Ferrer 1.
KHS 26 - Salas 8, Evangelista 5, Sakisat 5, Mafnas 4, Faisao 2, Racadio 2.
Scoring by quarters: 7-3, 18-6, 24-10, 28-26.
KHS 33 - Taitano 12, Muna 11, Retan 6, Aaron 2, Ada 2.
SSHS 23 - Borromeo 7, Deleon Guerrero 6, Tekopua 4, Sto. Domingo 4, Espinosa 2.
Scoring by quarters: 6-4, 18-6, 25-12, 33-23.
MHS 78 - Dela Rosa 24, Darag 10, Cristobal 10, Apolinar 8, Macahito 8, Aguilar 7, Ano 5, Mancao 4, Suarez 2.
MCS 58 - Saludez 31, Taguchi 13, Yamagata 6, Amog 4, Camacho 2, Hyun-Son 2.
Scoring by quarters: 19-17, 34-27, 53-52, 78-58.
MHS 54 - Deleon Guerrero-Diaz 13, Admana 9, Arciagia 5, De Guzman 5, Benavente 4, Francisco 4, Mendoza 4, Ringor 4, Cayading 3, Manalili 3.
SIS 23 - Y. Kim 10, Johnson 6, Cepeda 3, H. Kim 2, Ramsey 2.
Scoring by quarters: 4-8, 20-14, 35-17, 54-23, 54-23.
SSHS 125 - De Guzman 27, Andrews 21, Feria 18, Javier III 14, Villagomez 14, Aranda 12, Salem 11, Alegre 6, Villanueva 2.
MCS 52 - Saludez 22, Camacho 7, Hyun-Son 7, Yamagata 6, Taguchi 5, Amog 3, Ogasawara 2.
Scoring by quarters: 31-15, 54-25, 85-34, 125-52.
SSHS 47 - Palacios 18, Acopiado 8, Kintaro 5, Raquepo 4, Ferrer 3, Reyes 3, Aldan 2, Castro 2, Lin 2.
SIS 25 - C. Cepeda 11, H. Kim 6, Johnson 2, N. Kim 2, Y. Kim 2, A. Cepeda 2.
Scoring by quarters: 8-2, 18-10, 31-10, 47-25.