Joe Diaz: I’m still proud of my boys

Posted on Sep 10 2021
The Game’s Jeff Sagum RBA

The Game’s Jeff Sagum drives to the basket against a phalanx of San Antonio Sixers in Game 1 of the Inaugural NMI Rollers Men’s Basketball Tournament finals last Sunday at the Koblerville Basketball Court. (Mark Rabago)

San Antonio Sixers may have lost the Inaugural NMI Rollers Men’s Basketball Tournament last Sunday, but for Joe Diaz, who coached the team in the finals in lieu of head coach Dave Apatang, merely reviving the Sixers name was already an accomplishment.

“I’m very proud of our boys, the Sixers, and I’m very glad that together with coach Dave we brought back the name Sixers, the San Antonio Sixers. Pretty much all these boys are from San Antonio and they played under Jessie Tudela of the Sonics. My great-great grandmother is also from San Antonio and my mom is also from San Antonio and I too live in San Antonio. I coached the G-Rollers because at that time Ryan Nisperos was coaching the Sixers,” he said.

While losing despite a twice-to-beat advantage against eventual champion The Game entering the finals stung, Diaz said he has already put that defeat in the rearview mirror.

“I’m just proud of our boys. We have not really played together long. We have not even practiced. We just put the team together. Basically coach Dave and I handled the Sixers. It was really a hard battle due to their (The Game) big guys. Eric Joe and Richard McWilliams are big guys and they punished us a lot in the bottom. In the first game we gave everything we had to catch up. We were down 21 points and made it close in the end to lose by just 3 points,” he said.

Diaz admits that nerves got the better of his team in the clutch as they gave up a 15-point lead in Game 2 and ultimately lost the championship when McWilliams and Joe connected on an alley-oop play with 25.5 left in the game clock.

“For Game 2, we missed crucial free throws and had many turnovers. We were up in the second game and we were comfortable and didn’t push enough and we started cramping up left and right. I couldn’t use Jaymark [De Guzman] that much and Jun Fidelino missed an easy basket. The guys were tired and they fought hard. I’ll give it to The Game. It’s a good championship. Both teams were excellent and fans came out to watch and they were able to watch two great championship games.”

It all boiled down to The Game coach Clint Albert’s big men dominating the inside, according to Diaz.

“It’s very physical and very hard. I give our big guys Josh Andrew, Gerald Flores, and Jun Fidelino props. I feel so proud because they were dealing with The Game’s Joe, McWilliams, and Dean Blake. They were actually in foul trouble but they played smart,” he said.

Diaz also took his hat off to Finals MVP McWilliams.

“Richard’s basketball IQ was phenomenal and he understands a lot about the game and he broke a lot of our defense. That’s why we tried to foul him out but he did good today. Both teams did good.”

NMI Rollers Basketball Association founder also took time to thank the tourney’s main sponsor and all the volunteers that helped make the tourney a success.

“I would like to thank our sponsor, Pacific Amusement, and give other teams a big thank you. This is our first 5×5 tournament. We ran it smoothly and thanks to our volunteers who helped us a lot. I know the fans didn’t like the mask and all those protocols, but at the end of the day everybody got to be safe. Better safe than sorry.”

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at
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