Rollers 2 bagged the championships trophy in the 2013 Sun Palace Christmas Basketball Tournament after defeating Rollers 1 in a winner-take-all finale, 60-53, last Saturday night at the Gillette Multipurpose Gymnasium.
Rollers 2 came out the stronger team in the second half en route to the 7-point upset win over Rollers 1, which topped the double-round robin elimination with an impressive 11-1 record. Rollers 2 was seeded third in the playoffs with its 8-4 slate and incidentally was the only team to have won against Rollers 1 in the elimination.
In their third meeting, Rollers 2 and 1 were evenly match as shown in the back-and-forth game in the first half. Neither squad led by as much as five points in the opening 20 minutes of the finals and by the end of the first half only a one point separated the opposing teams with Rollers 1 clinging to a 28-27 lead.
A 7-0 start in the second half off Jun Fidelino and John Capuyon’s jumper and Sam Darag’s triple gave momentum to Rollers 2 and it never lost it, foiling Rollers 1’s repeated comeback bids.
Rollers 2 protected the driver’s seat, as Kobe Mendoza did a solid quarterbacking job for the eventual champion. The Rollers 1 guard spotted big men Jun Fidelino and Mike Espinosa cutting in the paint for point-blank shots, while Capuyon and Darag occasionally popped long jumpers.
Before getting into their rhythm in the second half, Fidelino and Espinosa were held to one field goal apiece in the first half, leaving Mendoza and Darag to carry the fight for Rollers 2.
Rollers 1, on the other hand, was out of sync in the second half, particularly Mike Arciaga and J.P. Iglecias. Arciaga, who had a game-high 19 points in their semis win against FTMP, was limited to 4 points, while Iglecias, who tallied 7 in the previous game, had only one basket and committed several turnovers in the second half.
The rest of the Rollers 1 could not hit baskets in streaks and at one point in the closing minutes of the finals attempted four shots in succession and missed all. Rollers 1’s string of misses started in the last two minutes of the game after Kobe Mendoza made a pair of charities and gave Rollers 2 a 52-47 cushion. Arciaga had the first miss, overshooting his mark, while Malonzo also muffed an undergoal stab. Rollers 1 got the second offensive board and this time William Camacho pulled up for a triple from the right key and missed, too. Another botched triple from Malonzo from the left key added to Rollers 1’s offensive woes.
Finally, Rollers 2 controlled the rebound and while Rollers 2 bled for points in the previous plays, Mike Espinosa nonchalantly attempted a triple way past the 3-point arc and made the dagger, 55-47, with less than a minute left in the match.
Rollers 2 then got the ball back when Capuyon reached in against Prince Factor, who tried to post up and get a quick two-point field goal. Capuyon managed to tap the ball out, which Mendoza picked up and Rollers 1 was forced to commit a preemptive foul. Rollers 2 went on to spend the remaining minutes of the match by stepping to the stripe and going 5-for-6 to secure the title win, while Rollers 2 managed to hit late treys that only sliced the deficit to single digit.
Mendoza top-scored for Rollers 2 with his 16 points, while Capuyon and Espinosa chipped in 12 and 10, respectively. Fidelino and Darag added 9 each, while Factor was the lone double figure scorer for Rollers 1 with his 15 markers.
Meanwhile, Rollers Basketball Club head coach Joe Diaz thanked Sun Palace and TSL Foundation for giving the CNMI youth players something worthwhile to do during school break. The tournament, which started during the holiday season, honed not only the players’ games, but also their officiating skills, according to Diaz.
Rollers 2 60 – Mendoza 16, Capuyon 12, Espino 10, Fidelino 9, Darag 9, Cenir 4.
Rollers 1 53 – Factor 15, Malonzo 9, Camacho 7, Pangelinan 6, Cayading 6, Arciaga 4, Iglecias 2, Omori 2.
Scoring by halves: 27-28, 60-53.