Naraja lifts Knights past Geckos

Mt. Carmel School’s Leo Naraja, center, drives against Saipan International defenders for the game-winning basket in the middle school match in the CCOPSA caging yesterday at the Geckos court in As Lito. (Roby N. Pamintuan)

Mount Carmel School foiled Saipan International School’s comeback attempt after pulling off a 27-26 victory in the Commonwealth Coalition of Private Schools Association Middle School Basketball League yesterday at the SIS court.

Leo Naraja hit the dagger for the Knights, as he sliced into the Geckos’ defense and nailed the game-winning layup. Mt. Carmel had to rely on their starting point guard after the team squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.

Ahead at 25-15, the Knights’ slowly lost control of the game, as the SIS went for the final push. Daniel Nam made a trey and banked in a teardrop to move the Geckos within 5, 20-25. Dylan Mister also scored back-to-back baskets, while Nam drained a 15-foot jumper to seize the lead, 26-25, with less than a minute left in the match.

With the game on the line, Naraja took over, as he dribbled his way past three SIS defenders for the go-ahead basket. After the Knights regained the lead, the Geckos were left with 15 seconds to draw up a play. SIS coach Rick Linkenhelt then sued for time to give instructions to his players, but when the game resumed, Mt. Carmel stole the possession and swung the ball around as time expired.

Raphael Galang top-scored for Mt. Carmel with his 11 markers, while Naraja also registered double figures with 10. Mister and Nam had 9 apiece for SIS.

With MCS narrowly escaping with a victory, it improved its record to 5-1, while SIS dropped to a 3-2 card.

Meanwhile, Agape Christian School pummeled Northern Marianas International School, 68-17.

The Phoenix didn’t stand a chance against the Torchbearers right from the outset, as the latter exploded for 23 points in the first quarter, while the former managed only 7.

After their solid offense in the opening canto, Agape team captain David Zhang delivered the killer blows, scoring 17 of his 23 total points in the fourth. Eason Tang and Bobby Bao backed up Zhang after adding 17 and 10 points, respectively. Eddie Valdoz registered 6 points and Justin Mateo logged 5 in a losing effort for the Phoenix.

Agape marched to a 6-0 record after the rout, while NMIS fell to a 1-5 mark.

In other results, Seventh Day Adventist got a free win after Saipan Community School forfeited its match due to insufficient number of players. SDA recorded its first victory of the season after losing its first five matches, while SCS fell to a 1-5 slate.

With the first round of games in the books, ACS is perched atop the rankings and was followed by Mt, Carmel, SIS, Grace Christian Academy (3-2), SCS, SDA, and NMIS.

The league’s second round will start on April 22. SDA will host MCS in a double-header, while NMIS will visit SIS.

BOYS DIVISION
First Game

MCS 27—Galang 11, Naraja 10, Borja 2, Cepeda 2, San Nicolas 2.
SIS 26—Mister 9, Nam 9, Lee 6, Casey 2.
Scoring by quarters: 8-7, 19-9, 25-15, 27-26

Second Game
ACS 68 —Zhang 23, Tang 17, Bao 10, Jin 8, Dai 5, Liang 5
NMIS 17 — Valdoz 6, Mateo 5, Ralph 4, Pineda 2.
Scoring by quarters: 23-7, 33-11, 47-13, 68-17

Roby N. Pamintuan

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