Docomo Pacific eked out a thrilling 72-69 victory over San Antonio to bag the championship in the 2nd DL Corp. Invitational Basketball League last Saturday night at the Gualo Rai Basketball Court.
Juan Camacho delivered for Docomo in the homestretch, collaring a rebound, canning a free throw, and making a steal in the last 7.5 seconds of the down-to-the-wire title game. The lanky forward grabbed the rebound after Nevin Salem overshot his mark and gave up a preemptive foul on Camacho. The former CNMI national swimmer missed his first charity, but made the second one, lifting Docomo to a 3-point lead, 72-69.
With no timeout left, San Antonio was forced to do the inbound play from the backcourt and to save time, Ezra Caro rolled the ball down toward Salem near the Docomo bench. However, the ploy backfired on San Antonio, as Camacho, who was near the midcourt line, came rushing toward Salem and dove for the ball for the crucial steal. San Antonio then committed a foul anew, sending Erwin Gomez to the 15-foot line for a pair of free throws. Gomez muffed both shots and with 3.1 seconds left on the clock, J.P. Villanueva threw up a prayer from the backcourt, but failed to hit the miracle basket, as his shot did not even hit the rim as time expired.
Docomo had to rely on the Camacho’s heroics in the closing seconds of the finals after slowly wasting a 9-point lead in the last 1:50 of the game, 71-62. San Antonio launched a 7-0 run in about a minute to threaten Docomo. The rally started with Jack Aranda draining two free throws and then Caro connecting an undergoal shots. Docomo faltered anew on its next offensive set, while San Antonio missed four straight point-blanked shot on the other end before Aranda connected on a booming triple to slice the deficit to 2, 69-71, 42.3 seconds left on the clock.
Docomo lost possession in the ensuing play with Camacho’s kick-out pass to Paraiso intercepted by Nevin Salem, giving San Antonio a chance to either equalize the game with a 2-point shot or grab the lead with a triple. However, San Antonio also committed an error with Bryle Alegre’s crosscourt pass to Salem picked up by Lance Reeves.
The erratic plays in the homestretch continued, as Paraiso was called for the travelling violation when he tried to squeeze into the defense of San Antonio. San Antonio then sued for time to set up a crucial play in the last 15.6 seconds of the game.
The game resumed with Aranda making the inbound and passing the leather to Salem who drove strong to the basket too early and faltered on his floater. A frustrated Salem then went over the back of Camacho, who positioned himself well in the paint to pluck the important rebound.
While Camacho’s clutch plays lifted Docomo to the close victory, it was Paraiso’s consistent inside game in the first three quarters that helped the champion team stay afloat despite falling behind early. San Antonio took a 14-2 lead in the first four minutes of play before Paraiso brought the team back into the game, as his 8 points cut the deficit to 4, 18-22.
San Antonio remained on top at halftime, 36-29, but had a major meltdown in the third quarter to trail by as much as 13-points in that canto. San Antonio was held to 2 points in the first eight minutes of the third period and failed to neutralize Paraiso, who exploded for 14 points in that frame to give Docomo its biggest lead, 51-38.
It was San Antonio’s turn to play catch up in the fourth and it managed to tie the game, 60-all, off Jaymark De Guzman’s baseline drive, 3:54 left in the match. However, Marlon Sison scored 7 straight points to put Docomo back in the lead before San Antonio launched another comeback, but fell short in the end.
Meanwhile, in the battle for third place, Island Floral routed I Love Saipan, 107-80.
Island Floral led by only 9 in the third period, but turned on the heat in the fourth, firing 31 points against the 13 of I Love Saipan to nail the 27-point winning margin.
Jun Tabora sizzled for 34 points for Island Flora, while Cecilio Bisana chipped in 26. I Love Saipan’s Mike Olaitiman led all scorers with his 43 markers.
Island Floral 107 – Tabora 34, Bisana 26, Jugos 13, Teregeyo 10, Norita 9, Tobias 9, Mateo 2, Barrozo 2.
I Love Saipan 80 – Olaitiman 43, Ruluked 16, Cristobal 8, Lontoc 4, Aldan 3, Rabago 2, Camacho 2.
Scoring by quarters: 24-15, 52-41, 76-67, 107-80.
Docomo Pacific 72 – Paraiso 28, Camacho 12, Sison 12, Villacrusis 9, Montes 2, Reeves 2, Tudela 2.
San Antonio 69 – Alegre 17, Aranda 14, Salem 13, Caro 8, Jo. Villanueva 6, Espinosa 4, Cadiang 2, De Guzman 2.
Scoring by quarters: 18-22, 29-36, 55-44, 72-69.