Dolphins win hoops title by 1 point
The Marianas High School Dolphins pulled an upset against regular season topnotcher Kagman High School Ayuyus in a cliff-hanger championship game, 56-55, in the 2022-2023 IT&E Interscholastic Boys High School Basketball League last Saturday at the MHS Gymnasium.
With the game tied at 55-55 in the last 16 seconds of the game, there was an infectious electricity in the air as MHS’ Aiden Suba made a beeline for the basket—and at just five seconds left, was fouled by Lucio Aldan.
The shotclock registered one crucial second left after the Dolphins called a timeout and Suba made the first free throw for a 56-55 lead—welcomed by an eruption of cheers from the home crowd.
Suba then intentionally missed the second free throw and in the process was called for a violation—stepping out of the free throw line early after releasing the ball, giving possession to the Ayuyus.
However, with just one second left, KHS was left with an impossible task and Frankie Satur played catch and release—but it was an airball—handing the championships to MHS.
Heading into the second half, KHS had a 3-point lead and early on, the Ayuyus were in the lead with a 10- point advantage, 35-25. But, the upper hand slipped from their grasp as they made too many aggressive one-on-one plays, while the Dolphins had smooth ball movement and capitalized off the Ayuyus’ errors.
With multiple shots made by the Dolphins’ Airson Atan and Khristian David, they crept up to KHS’ lead by 2, 47-45—and with two minutes left, MHS claimed the upper hand as Atan and Dylan Mister were fouled back-to-back, making it a 53-52 game.
KHS ruled the regular season coming out of it undefeated, only to lose in the playoffs, while MHS went undefeated in the playoffs and only needed to win Game 1 to clinch the title.
The Ayuyus found themselves in the losers bracket with a quarterfinal loss to the Dolphins, but found themselves face-to-face against them once again in the finals after they defeated Saipan Southern High School in the semis.
The Dolphins were handed their only loss in the regular season by the Ayuyus and Dan Wollack said for the playoffs, “We changed how we played. We were not at all happy with our effort in the regular season game. We were playing a lot of individual ball offensively and defensively, we just didn’t bring the intensity we needed to.”
“They’re a really good team,” Wollack said about KHS. “They have some really good players and they scorched us, but sometimes a loss can be a good thing and we used that as fuel for the playoffs. We came back with a much better game plan and our players did a really good job of trusting each other, playing our offense, and playing our defense, and it showed up in our results.”
In the finals with KHS in the lead for most of the game, Wollack said “One thing with our team is we’re really confident in all our 14 players, so we can insert any of them. We knew if we just kept the game within reach, we could use our depth and tire them out.”
There are five seniors in the team but Wollack said that they still have a solid team back. “A lot of them I’ve been with for four years and it feels great to send off the seniors as champions.”
He then thanked his wife for putting up with the crazy hours, the team manager, the other coaches, PSS Athletics Program director Nick Gross, and the Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation.
MHS 56 – David 20, Atan 13, Suba 7, Pelisamen Jr. 4, Mister 4, Escalada 3, Licayan 3, Lukas 2.
KHS – Aldan 14, Satur 14, Hocog and Ortiz 11, Dikito 3, Diaz 2.
Scoring by halves: 21-24, 56-55.