Koblerville won the championship of the boys 18 division of the 2022 Marianas Village Pride Basketball League after beating an off-target Gualo Rai team, 68-57, last Sunday night at the Gillette Multi-Purpose Center.
The game was a close one in the first half as Koblerville’s Airston Atan and Gualo Rai’s Leo Naraja were engaged in a shooting match.
Atan fired 14 points in the opening 20 minutes of action, while Naraja was good for 10 of his own as Gualo Rai kept it close, 29-27.
Thanks to some halftime pep talk from coach Preston Basa, Koblerville started the second half like a house on fire, igniting a 9-0 run in the first nine minutes of the period spurred by good ball movement to open up a 38-27 spread.
The scoring drought continued for Gualo Rai as Naraja suddenly was firing blanks and the rest of his teammates weren’t much help either.
Meanwhile, Atan added 18 more points in the second half and had more support from his teammates and at one point Koblerville led by as much as 20 points, 59-39, with 8 minutes to go in the contest.
Gualo Rai rallied in the final couple of minutes of the championship and cut it down to 9 points, 63-54, on a triple by Naraja with 1:04 remaining.
However, it was too little too late as Koblerville wasted the remaining time to hoist the boys 18 championship trophy.
Atan led all scorers with 32 points with big man Tynk Basa adding 9 points for Koblerville, while Naraja paced the runner-up Gualo Rai squad with 19 markers with Craig Padayao and Elijay Garcia adding 15 and 13, respectively.
Basa attributed their championship in the boys 18 division to good old-fashioned defense.
“As always, we always inform our boys that defense is key! We know we can score, we just need to ensure that we don’t let the other team score more than us. If we do that, we win every time.”
Plus, he admitted Koblerville had a great walk-through the day prior.
“We had a good day of practice on Saturday. We worked on moving the ball more and moving our feet on defense. Gualo Rai has good guards and taking away the penetration was key for us.”
And in that halftime speech, Basa said he reiterated to his players what needed to be done to eke out the victory and the all-important championship.
“At half time, I told them that defense is going to get us the W! Before they took the floor, I told them to go take the championship because they weren’t just going to give it to us. They started the second half with great intensity on defense and were able to turn defense into offense with transition baskets.”
Both teams actually finished the regular season with identical 6-1 win-loss records, but Koblerville beat Gualo Rai in the final game of the eliminations to take the top seed.
“We’d like to dedicate it to our sponsor, Saipan Vegas. We thank them for providing our kids the opportunity to learn and grow as individuals through the game of basketball. The boys have really built a great bond with one another,” said Basa.
In the battle for third in the same division played last Saturday, Tanapag beat Dandan, 69-60.
The championship games of the boys 13 and women’s division as well as the third place games for both divisions will be published in the next issues of Saipan Tribune.
Koblerville 68 – Atan 32, Basa 9, Mateo 6, Lucas 5, Fiden 5, Joab 4.
Gualo Rai 57 – Naraja 19, Padayao 15, Garcia 13, Aldan 7, Pangelinan 3, Sasamoto 1.
Scoring by halves: 29-27, 68-57.