4-peat for Knights

Mt. Carmel School’s Kelvin Cepeda, center, drives against Grace Christian Academy’s Kevin Song, left, and Do Jin Choi during the fourth quarter of their title game in the 2017-2018 Commonwealth Coalition of Private School Association Basketball League last Friday at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Mt. Carmel School coach Francis San Nicolas may sound like a broken record, but once again he credited the Knights’ success in the 2017-2018 Commonwealth Coalition of Private School Association Basketball League to their defense.

Mt. Carmel nearly held Grace Christian Academy scoreless in the third quarter to cruise to a 45-23 victory in their boys high school division title duel last Friday at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.

“Everyone worked on defense and stayed focus in the game. There were a couple of times they got excited, especially when we started to have a big lead, but then they settled down and were reminded to keep the pressure up,” San Nicolas said moments after the Knights completed a four-peat and matched the Eagles’ achievement in the division.

The Eagles dominated the league from 2009 to 2013, beating the Knights in all four occasions, before the latter had their string of championships in the next three years. Then the rival schools met for the fifth time and Mt. Carmel made sure it will be on the winning end, as the Knights were so unforgiving on defense that the Eagles could not buy even a single basket in a very long stretch.

GCA failed to make it 5-0 against Mt. Carmel as the Eagles fired blanks for around nine minutes bridging the second and third quarters. Before collapsing, GCA threatened the Knights, 12-13, as Jether Espanola’s triple capped an 8-1 scoring surge in the first six minutes of the second canto. However, that was it for the Eagles, as a drive from Matthew Richardson and a corner triple from Jaydon Tenorio gave Mt. Carmel more breathing room at the break, 17-12.

At the resumption of the game, GCA’s shooters continued to struggle against the Knights’ defense. On a couple of occasions, the Eagles even had a hard time just making the inbound and when they did, the ball handlers were also rattled by Mt. Carmel’s pesky defense. On a few times that GCA managed to pull up for a shot, its players still missed as they were either not squared off for the basket or were challenged by Knights defenders.

The Eagles were stuck to 12 points until the closing minute of the third period. A split free throw from Kevin Song in the last 45 seconds of the penultimate frame ended GCA’s long drought. With their opponents’ lackluster show on offense, the Knights managed to open a 29-13 lead at the end of the third canto. Angelo Factor scored 5 points in the third frame, while Seok Jun Yun, Aven and Ace Evangelista, and Henry Yu combined for the 7 other markers of the eventual champions.

The Knights then put the finishing touches on their impressive title win by making easy baskets in the fourth quarter and still playing no let up on defense until the last two minutes of the finale.

Yun led Mt. Carmel in scoring with his 13 points, while Factor and Tenorio chipped in 8 each. Don Jin Choi had 7 markers on a losing effort for GCA, as he tried to step up for Matthew Mamaril, who was a marked man in the finals and went scoreless against Mt. Carmel’s relentless defense. Only Choi and Amir Abes made more than one field goal in the Eagles’ failed attempt to dethrone the Knights.

MCS 45— Yun 13, Factor 8, Tenorio 8, Richardson 7, Yu 4, Aven Evangelista 2, Cepeda 2, Ace Evangelista 1.

GCA 23 — Choi 7, Abes 5, Espanola 5, Song 3, S. Kim 2, T. Kim 1.

Scoring by quarters: 8-4, 17-12, 29-13, 45-23.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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