I Love Saipan routed Hite, 75-56, in the first game that started past 7pm because of wet court, while Flip Top edged Saipan Ice in the nightcap, 63-59, to join Ali’i and Gwap Gang in the round-robin semifinals.
The last two semifinalists eliminated their respective foes after playing steady basketball in the fourth quarter.
I Love Saipan went on a 14-0 tear in the last 2:24 of the game to turn a close match to a double-digit winning margin. Hite was still in the thick of the fight when Zack Diaz made a putback, 56-61, but that also served as the team’s last basket, while I Love Saipan went for the jugular with Ben Pelisamen leading the charge.
Pelisamen hit back-to-back baskets, a double-clutch shot in the paint and a running jumper, to widen the gap, 65-56, entering the final two minutes. Time pressured, Hite tried to retaliate with quick triples, but missed all four of them, while I Love Saipan kept going and still had the last say with Pelisamen canning a triple with five seconds left on the match.
In the second game, Flip Top went for a 7-0 blast in the first three minutes of the fourth canto to gain more cushion after Saipan Ice threatened at the end of the third period, cutting the lead to a hair, 47-48. Genesis Mamaril started Flip Top’s string of points with a triple, while Donald Hockett nailed two straight baskets for their 55-47 advantage
Saipan Ice fought back and managed to slice the deficit to 4 twice with the last one at the 57-61, after Jerome Norita knocked in a triple after a couple of helter-skelter plays, going into the last 43. 2 seconds of the match. Saipan Ice had a chance to move closer after a Flip Top error, however Chen Zhe had butterfingers and lost possession from the backcourt. Melvin Cadiang picked up the loose ball and fed Quitugua to the left wing for the banked shot and Flip Top’s 63-57 lead.
Saipan Ice refused to give up and got a quick basket from Derrick Rangamar. However, the team lost precious seconds, as it failed to commit preemptive fouls, while Flip Top spread the floor well to avoid contact as time expired.
I Love Saipan 75 – Pelisamen 20, M. Olaitiman 14, Capalad 11, Sharry 7, Ro. Olopai 5, Ra. Olopai 4, Ruluked 4.
Hite 56 – Lauron 18, T. Montes 11, A. Montes 6, Z. Diaz 6, J. Diaz 6, Babauta 4, Tenorio 3, Manglona 2.
Scoring by quarters: 19-16, 31-31, 49-43, 75-56.
Flip Top 63 – Quitugua 13, Cadiang 9, Toribio 8, Hockett 8,Barbp 6, Vidal 5, Mamaril 3, Sablan 2, Jung 2.
Saipan Ice 59 – Norita 23, Sablan 11, Rangamar 10, Palacios 5, Mendiola 4, Cheng 3, Pena 2.
Scoring by quarters: 22-13, 31-30, 48-47, 63-59.