Francisco M. Sablan Middle School capped its perfect run in the girls division of the IT&E Interscholastic Basketball League 2022-2023 season by dominating Dandan Middle School in their finals match, 28-15, last Saturday at the Marianas High School Gymnasium.
The victory over Dandan allowed the Napu Riders to finally capture the division title that eluded them last season when they lost to Grace Christian Academy. It was also a fitting farewell to Rosie Saralu, who made the most of her last season with FMS after leading the team’s championship win.
Saralu scored 23 of FMS’ totals points, taking charge of the squad’s offense right from the get-go. She had all but one of the five field goals of the Napu Riders to hand the team an 11-4 advantage after the first period. FMS was never threatened after that with Saralu’s better basketball skills helping her outplayed Dandan players on offense.
Before battling Dandan, the Napu Riders first played in the semifinal round of the winner’s bracket on the same day, dueling No. 2 seed Tanapag Middle School. FMS eventually recorded a 24-16 victory to take the first finals seat, while Tanapag dropped to the loser’s bracket and waited for the results of a couple of knockout matches to get another chance for a finals stint.
Dandan, which prevailed over Hopwood-1 in the playoff opener last Thursday, 21-18, saw action in one of those win-or-go-home games after bowing to Tanapag in the second round, 9-13. Dandan had to beat Tinian Junior High School last Friday, 16-13, and then dethroned GCA last Saturday, 15-11, to keep its finals hopes alive. The Tottot then took a one-hour rest before challenging the favored Tanapag for the second and last finals ticket.
Dandan went on to pull off an upset over the Tataga, 16-4, to join FMS in the finals. Tataga faltered on its second attempt to reach the finals after being held to two field goals in the loser’s bracket semis game over Dandan. Shaenna Yamada top-scored for Dandan in their semis win after making 12 points.
After two back-to-back make-or-break matches, Dandan played its third straight game of the day and faced a daunting task in the finals as the team collided with the unbeaten FMS, which holds a twice-to-beat advantage in the title game. The Napu Riders went on to finish off Dandan in Game 1 of the finals behind Saralu to complete their undefeated season.
FMS swept its eight games in the regular season and breezed past its first three opponents in the playoff round before taking on Dandan. Despite recording a streak, FMS coach Dexter Tenorio reminded his players not to be too complacent in the finals and follow their game plan—which is to prevent Dandan players from scoring off fastbreaks and box out on the rebound play against their much taller foes.
“We don’t have problems on offense because we have Rosie so the focus really is to help each other out on defense,” said Tenorio, who had his coaching debut with the Napu
“I would like to thank the FMS management, staff, and the teachers and our players’ family members for supporting our team and for trusting me to coach their students/children,” Tenorio added. “We will continue the program for the next season and will encourage the students to practice more because we will be losing some key players and we will need big adjustments as we try to defend our title next year.”
FMS 28 – Saralu 23, Nishimura 5.
Dandan 15 – Ramon 8, Yamada 4, Laniyo 2, Stole 1.
Scoring by quarters: 11-4, 15-8, 24-14, 28-15.