The Tinian High School Stallions ran the table again in the Marianas Interscholastic Sports Organization's 2013 boys basketball postseason tournament this past Friday and Saturday at the Marinas High School Gymnasium.
The seven-man band is made up of seniors Estevan Borja III, Darius Pettis, and Michael San Nicolas; junior Marc Babauta; and sophomores Marvin Cruz Jr. and Henry Sandbergen with freshman Keshaun Nabors, son of head coach Keith Nabors.
The team is also supported by assistant coach Nathan Aquiningoc and team manager Malcolm Maui.
The Stallions held strong against a late charge by the MHS Dolphins to capture its second straight title, 84-78.
THS swept the field once again despite being heavily outnumbered from a bench depth standpoint.
The Stallions were granted the third seed by MISO organizers at the start of the competition and went through the Mount Carmel Knights, 112-34; and then MHS, 102-96, before slipping past the favored home bet Saipan Southern High School Manta Rays, 79-78, to earn its finals bid.
MHS earned a first round bye as the second ranked team during the regular season and bounced back after faltering out of the gate with victories over the Kagman High School Ayuyus, 74-58; MCS, 82-58; and its bitter rival SSHS, 57-43, to get an outside shot for the title.
The Stallions plan on celebrating their title defense on Taga Beach upon returning home.
On behalf of the squad, coach Nabors thanked Josh Castro, Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider and his staff, and the Department of Community & Cultural Affairs for granting them permission to use the Tinian Municipal Gymnasium, Star Marianas, and the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino for participating in numerous scrimmage sessions.
He also thanked his wife, Joyce, and all of the parents and families of the team for supporting the group during its training sessions especially in the month leading into the competition.
In the finals, THS built an early 25-14 edge in the opening 10 minutes on the coattails of Pettis and Babauta who combined for 16 points out of the gate.
The Stallions then pressed ahead, 47-29, and got its bench involved though Pettis remained at the helm and added 8 points in the second quarter. Teammate Michael San Nicolas provided 3 baskets in support.
Babauta led THS' attack after the break with 9 markers and though MHS made an effort to tighten up on defense, the Stallions mobile center Pettis still managed to sink a handful from the charity stripe.
THS led it, 67-55, heading into the closing period and it appeared as though they would walk off with the win as MHS mainstays Erik Dela Rosa and John Darag were both kept on short leashes.
Dela Rosa was held to just 6 points for the game and was routinely challenged in the trenches for rebounds as well.
He fouled out with six minutes left in regulation to make things appear even more grim for the Dolphins, but instead of giving up the team dug deep and ignited a late rally surge in the last five minutes of the game.
MHS' Shane Deleon Guerrero played like a beast, especially for a freshman, and helped give Darag some relief on the scoring end.
He tallied a dozen markers in the second half to lead a plethora of teammates.
It was all hands on deck for MHS as they battled back to within a possession, 74-77, with just under two minutes to go, but eventually the Stallions pulled it together on defense and got it done.
THS' Pettis went on to can three more free throws under pressure in the last minute in between a pair of clutch baskets by San Nicolas.
In related news, using funds from its Brabu grant, MISO organizers gave away 75 basketballs evenly distributed to all of its participating member schools before Saturday's championship tip off.
In addition, there was a scary moment just before intermission of the championship pairing as MHS' Justin Cayading suffered a head injury after hitting the ground awkwardly during a collision with a THS player for a loose ball.
The game stopped for about 20 minutes as emergency medics were contacted and rushed to the scene.
As of Saturday evening his coach, Steve Jents, who accompanied him to the hospital said that Cayading was doing okay, though the doctors kept him overnight upon running a head scan.
THS 84 - Pettis 29, Babauta 25, San Nicolas 16, Borja III 10, Nabors 2, Sandbergen 2.
MHS 78 - Darag 24, Deleon Guerrero 17, Aguilar 12, Cayading 6, Dela Rosa 6, Mancao 6, Ano 2, Cholymay 2, Zapanta.
Scoring by quarters: 25-14, 47-29, 67-55, 84-78.