KFC/Taco Bell wins championship


Players and coaches of KFC/Taco Bell flash the No. 1 sign after beating Team Pogi in their title showdown in the DLX/DL JOS caging last Monday night at the Gualo Rai Basketball Court. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)  KFC/Taco Bell ruled the 2012 DLX/DL JOS Inter-Color Basketball League after defeating Team Pogi, 68-49, in the winner-take-all finals last Monday night at the Gualo Rai Basketball Court.

Jeff Durant, Ralph Francisco, and Joon Lee delivered the killer blows for KFC/Taco Bell in the last six minutes of the title match, as the trio scored all of the team’s 17 points in the final canto to thwart Team Pogi’s rally.

Down by as much as 15 in the third period, Team Pogi moved within four, 47-51, with 6:16 left on the clock. Team Pogi threatened a big comeback after starting the fourth canto with a 9-0 blast. Tim Sula began the rally with a triple, while Erlan Lansang and Brian Chan connected on one layup each, and Jeff Bahillo made a pair of free throws.

KFC/Taco Bell then pressed the panic button after Team Pogi sliced the lead to four and coaches Raymark Castro and Jomary Tumaquip brought Durant back into the game, along with Lee, who replaced Herbert Maranan.

Durant sat out for about three minutes early in the fourth due to foul trouble. When he returned to the floor, he got a feed from Francisco to put KFC/Taco Bell on the board. He made another shot in the paint, while Francisco escaped with a fastbreak layup to bring KFC/Taco Bell’s lead back to double digits, 57-47, with less than five minutes left on the clock.

After scoring 9 straight points in the fourth canto, Team Pogi went cold, missing several shots from downtown. It failed to hit a single field goal in the last 6:16 of the game and drained only two free throws. Jeff Bahillo, who was consistent with his 3-point shooting throughout the regular season and in the first two games in the playoffs, canned only one triple (in the second period) and missed all his four attempts from beyond the arc in the fourth. He finished with his season-low of 7 points and his younger brother, Jason, struggled, too, nailing only 6.

While the Bahillos had an off night, Durant, Lee, and Francisco continued to sizzle for KFC/Taco Bell in fourth period. Francisco was steady at the point and added 4 more markers, while Lee converted two layups and had a split free throw, giving KFC/Taco Bell a comfortable 65-49 advantage, with 1:25 left on the clock. Durant made the last basket for KFC/Taco Bell and had 8 of his game-high 25 points in the final canto.

With the championship already secured, KFC/Taco Bell fielded its second stringers, while Team Pogi also went to its bench to close the game.

The title match started with KFC/Taco Bell stunning Team Pogi with an 11-point margin, 21-10. Francisco fueled KFC/Taco Bell’s offense early, scoring 6 of the team’s first 8 points, while Maranan picked up where the former left off, nailing 5 straight markers. Team Pogi hit two early triples in the opening canto, courtesy of Chan, but it had only four field goals in that period and Jeff Bahillo failed to make it to the scoreboard.

Jeff Bahillo canned his first and lone triple in the second quarter, as he tried to bring his team back. However, Durant was there to keep KFC/Taco Bell in the lead, 32-27, as the mobile big man dominated the paint with his teardrop shots.

The match remained close in the third before KFC/Taco Bell pulled away in the last four minutes of that period, turning a 39-34 advantage to a 51-38 lead. KFC/Taco Bell stretched the advantage to as much as 51-36, as Durant continued to muscle his way into the basket and fired 9 points in the third frame, while Maranan contributed 5.

The third quarter went on to conclude with KFC/Taco Bell ahead by 13, 51-38, before Team Pogi made a rally, but lost the game of streaks in the end.

With the victory, KFC/Taco Bell received the championship trophy from Joe Digno, manager of league sponsor JOS Corporation.

Meanwhile, in the battle for third place, Mawati edged Irish Spring, 57-54.

Harris Enriquez paced Mawati with 16 points, while Mario Ibanes and Jerome Reyes chipped in 15 and 11, respectively.

First Game

Mawati 57 – Enriquez 16, Ibanes 15, Reyes 11, Tenepere 7, Pena 3, Samonte 3.

Irish Spring 54 – Samson 18, Hernandez 17, Garcia 9, Leong 2, Brien 2, Hilario 2, Cordero 2.

Scoring by quarters:
16-18, 29-31, 48-42, 57-54.

Second Game

KFC/Taco Bell 68 – Durant 25, Francisco 12, Lee 10, Maranan 10, Mendiola 2, Deleon Guerrero 2.

Team Pogi 49 – Chan 14, Lansang 11, Sula 7, Je. Bahillo 7, Ja. Bahillo 4, Aranda 2.

Scoring by quarters: 21-10, 32-27, 51-38, 68-49.

By Roselyn Monroyo

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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