8th Division/MAFEA and Ali’i Blue Haus/Bayani prevailed in the walkout-marred semifinal round of the 2016 UFO/IT&E Inter-Organizational Basketball League last Saturday night at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
The No. 1 seed Blue Haus got a free ride to the finals after Save More/MIFICPA walked out from their semis game, while 8th Division pulled off a come-from-behind 75-64 victory over the second-ranked Best Sunshine International-Blue Eagles to clinch the last finals berth.
Save More/MIFICPA left the court, with still 7:56 left in the second quarter and the team holding a slim 26-24 lead, in protest of the back-to-back fouls charged on Rolly Paraiso. The Save More forward was called for a foul on Darwin Barbo in a battle for the rebound, according to head referee Richard Babac. Babac later gave Paraiso another foul—technical and his fourth—for excessive complaining and showing disrespect to the referee.
Save More captain Marlon Sison in a separate interview, contested the two calls, saying the first one was wrong because it was Andrew Ashburn who was jockeying for position against two Blue Haus players in the rebound play. For the technical foul infraction, Sison said Paraiso should have received a warning first.
Assistant league commissioner Lito Espino, who was present in the match, temporarily taking the place of commissioner Ed Manalili, said he conferred with the other referees and after their discussion, the league decided to stand by the earlier calls.
With the infraction against Paraiso staying, Save More opted not to continue the match despite the prodding from game officials. Sison also complained the change in the roster of referees for their semis match. He said Blue Haus requested exclusion of one of the referees from the original cast and it was a violation on the league’s ground rule No. 10, stating that “any request to change the referee assignment will not be entertained.”
Meanwhile, 8th Division worked its way back from a 15-point deficit early in the game to stun favored BSI-Blue Eagle and force a winner-take-all title match against Blue Haus tomorrow.
8th Division neutralized BSI-Blue Eagle gunner Douglas Schmidt in the last three quarters to overhaul its foes’ lead and steal the win. Schmidt scored 11 straight points in the first quarter to give BSI-Blue Haus a 15-point lead twice, 19-4 and 21-6.
8th Division was held to 6 points in the first eight minutes of the game, but managed to pick up its scoring in the closing seconds of the opening frame to bring the deficit down to single digit, 12-21, entering the second canto. With its offense beginning to work, 8th Division’s defense on Schmidt also started to pay dividends for the Amor Zapata-coached squad.
Dexter Tenorio, Maverick Itibus, and Alex Lauron alternately hounded Schmidt, while their teammates provided help defense. The moment Schmidt got the ball, two 8th Division players were all over him and the BSI-Blue Eagle main man took a lot of time trying to dribble out of his defenders. By the time Schmidt broke free, which happened only on a few occasions, he was tired and was not squared off for the shot. It did not help that majority of Schmidt’s teammates were misfiring, too and Matt Duenas was stuck on the bench (except in the fourth) and could not get into his rhythm when fielded earlier.
With almost everything going against BSI-Blue Eagle’s way, 8th Division stole the lead, 43-41, on Lauron’s fastbreak layup, three minutes and change left in the third period. Schmidt, who made only a point in the second canto, was held to 3 in the third that ended with 8th Division still on top, 50-48.
A 6-3 run off Duenas’ three consecutive baskets in the first two minutes of the fourth put BSI-Blue Eagle back on top, 54-53, but that was the last time the team had the lead. 8th Division sued for time after Duenas’ string of points and countered with a 10-2 run to move closer to the finals. 8th Division went on to seal the deal in the last 1:36, as it won another exchange, 10-6, capped by Jun Tabora’s pair of free throws that gave the squad its biggest lead, 73-62.
Schmidt and the BSI-Eagle’s misfortunes continued at the very end, as the team missed its last five shots, including three from the former Palau national player. As a consolation, Schmidt knocked in two free throws for BSI-Blue Eagle’s last 2 points. Schmidt still finished a game-high 17 points, but had only one field goal and three charities in the last three quarters. Melvin Villarin also earned 17 markers for BSI-Blue Eagle, while Duenas had a 12, 8 of them came in the fourth canto.
Tabora paced 8th Division with his 16 points, while Jun Alipio chipped in 14 and Lauron and Kelvin Fitial also finished in twin digits, adding 12 and 10, respectively. Rodney Catalla and Itibus combined for 17 more points for 8th Division.
8th Division 75 — D. Tabora 16, Alipio 14, Lauron 12, Fitial 10, Catalla 9, Itibus 8, Lansang 4, Tenorio 2,
BSI-Blue Eagle 64 — Schmidt 17, Villarin 17, Duenas 12, Pablo 9, Raho 6, Palino 2, Tobias 1.
Scoring by quarters: 12-21, 32-39, 50-48, 75-64.