The Ol’Aces weathered Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan’s fourth-quarter storm to escape with a 47-41 victory in the deciding Game 3 of their title series in the 2018 MIBF Island-wide Basketball League last Friday at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
Jaime Pangelinan made a rally-halting basket in the homestretch, while Eleina Santos and Alliyah Fernandez drilled two free throws each to deliver the championship to the Ol’Aces, who completed their recovery in the short series after losing Game 1 in overtime, 52-54.
The Ol’Aces, who tied the series after dominating Fiesta Resort in Game 2, 50-39, seemed headed for another easy win in the rubber when they posted their biggest lead at 37-23, after Fernandez made a layup off their opponent’s error.
However, Jan Travilla scored 8 unanswered points in the next three minutes and change to spark Fiesta Resort’s fightback. Travilla had an and-1 play against Eleina Santos and then followed it up with a jumper as her behind the back dribble caught the Ol’Aces defender flatfooted, while the former’s last basket in that surge came from downtown.
With Fiesta Resort inching closer, Ol’Aces coach John Santos sued for time and a point-blank shot from her younger daughter Annalei somehow eased the pressure from their team, as they led, 39-31, with 5:14 remaining on the clock.
However, Fiesta Resort refused to buck down and again won the next exchange, 9-2, to move within one, 40-41, with 2:10 left in the rubber. Nana Watanabe contributed 4 points in that rally, Madi Alegre converted a 3-point play, and Krizel Tuazon’s undergoal stab cut the deficit to a hair.
Tuazon then had a chance put Fiesta Resort on top for the first time since their squad took a 2-0 lead when she grabbed the rebound off a miss from Travilla, however the former overshot her mark. The Ol’Aces finally controlled the board, but also faltered on their next offensive set, while Travilla muffed another shot on the other end with the ball going over the board—an automatic violation that returned possession to the Ol’Aces.
After Fiesta Resort’s infraction, the Ol’Aces went for a quick inbound and Eleina spotted Pangelinan sprinting to their frontcourt and made the touchdown pass. Pangelinan went on to hit the dagger, as two Fiesta Resort defenders failed to chase her.
The fastbreak basket was Pangelinan’s lone field goal in the exciting game and gave the Ol’Aces more breathing room, 43-40, 1:07 left on the clock. The scores remained as the opposing teams exchanged turnovers before Eleina was fouled on her way to the basket and canned both charities for their 45-40 advantage, down to the final 53.4 seconds of the match.
Time pressured, Fiesta Resort gambled on attempting from downtown and missed twice, while Tuazon only had a split, allowing the Ol’Aces to remain in front. The Ol’Aces then tried sealing the win with a fastbreak layup from Fernandez, but the already decided match became intense anew when Cassandra Camacho gave up a hard foul on former.
Camacho was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, handing Fernandez a pair of free throws and the possession back to the Ol’Aces. Fernandez went 2-for-2 to peg the final score, as the Ol’Aces dribbled down the last 2.5 seconds of the tension-field game.
Earlier in the closing minutes of the third quarter, emotions ran high, as Eleina threw the ball on Watanabe after they collided at the backcourt. Eleina received the inbounded pass from her teammate and Watanabe reached in, trying to steal the ball, but rammed into the Ol’Aces quarterback in the process. Eleina, who later argued with the referee that she was hit by Watanabe’s foot, went down and as she started to stand up, she picked up the ball and threw it to Fiesta Resort guard, who then approached the former, but the referees quickly stepped in, preventing the intense situation from further escalating. Then, just when everyone thought things were already back to normal, Annalei and one player from Fiesta Resort started to shove each other and exchanged words. Fortunately, officials pacified them and in the end only Eleina was slapped with a technical foul for throwing the ball on Watanabe.
Travilla missed the technical free throw and the Ol’Aces managed to keep the double-digit lead at the end of the third canto, 35-23, forcing Fiesta Resort to make one final push in the fourth and fell short.
Ol’Aces 47— E. Santos 17, Fernandez 13, A. Santos 11, Pangelinan 2, Villagomez 2, Quincy 2.
Fiesta Resort 41 7— Travilla 12, Watanabe 10, Tuazon 7, Alegre 6, Alferos 2, Camacho 2, Espinosa 2.
Scoring by quarters: 16-9, 23-17, 35-23, 47-41.