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Rollers Black sweeps Spring Madness

Posted on Apr 19 2021

Rollers Black players and coach Chioni Dela Cruz pose for a group photo after winning the U17 championship of the Rollers Basketball Association 2021 Spring Madness League last Saturday at the Koblerville Gymnasium. (Contributed Photo)

Rollers Black swept all four divisions of the Rollers Basketball Association 2021 Spring Madness League after its U17 team overcame a spirited late-game rally by Ol’Aces to the win Game 2 of their finals, 52-47, last Saturday at the Koblerville Gymnasium.

Previously, Rollers Black won the U19, U14, and U11 diadems of the tournament, but unlike those three divisions, coach Chioni Dela Cruz’s U17 team had an uphill battle against Ol’Aces after their finals opponent topped the eliminations and had a twice-to-beat advantage in the championship.

The defending champions forced a do-or-die second game last April 11 when Steve King hit back-to-back triples to force the rubber match and it appeared King and company were headed for a coronation in the first half when they wiped the floor clean with Ol’Aces.

With King hitting from outside and Leopoldo Naraja running amok inside, Rollers Black dominated the Ol’Aces of coach Preston Basa and they opened up a 10-point lead at the half, 29-19.

Rollers Black’s lead would swell to as much as 24 points in the second half before Basa called timeout and instructed his players to pressure their opponents from the backcourt.

The ploy worked as Ol’Aces forced Rollers Black’s ballhandlers to successive turnovers which they converted into easy fastbreak points. The searing rally by Ol’Aces whittled down the once-imposing spread to single digits with three minutes and change left in the contest. However, it was too little, too late as key baskets by Rollers Black stemmed the uprising and they were able to hold on to the 5-point win and raise the championship trophy.

King and Naraja shared team-high honors in the finale, scoring 13 points each, while Craig Padayao was simply brilliant in the loss, firing 23 markers with 15 of them in Ol’Aces’ swashbuckling second-half rally.

Rollers Black coach Chioni Dela Cruz said his boys overcoming Ol’Aces’ twice-to-beat advantage in the finals showed they have character.

“I believe that my 17U boys were hungry enough to pull it off. Just like what we worked on in practice. The boys were able to get easy baskets at the rim, while maintaining their high percentage shooting through the drills of coach Joe Diaz last Tuesday/Thursday. I believe that they worked hard enough to pull this off! They’re the defending champions for a reason,” he said.

What’s more impressive is Rollers Black was able to achieve the feat despite missing starting center and Regular Season MVP Merrick Toves, who is injured and missed both championship games.

“Despite Ol’Aces’ twice-to-beat advantage, I knew my boys would pull it off after going at it a few times in our scrimmages against my U19 team. With Ol’Aces being the contenders that they are, coach Joe Diaz and I made sure the boys were ready for any challenges they might’ve faced in this championship run. Despite the injury of one of our key players, Merrick Toves, our boys stayed confident and filled in that missing piece resulting in our two victories!”

Ol’Aces coach Preston Basa, for his part, said he’s proud of his Ol’Aces team for not giving up despite facing a more than 20-point advantage late in the second half of the do-or die finals game.

“It was a great effort by the kids. Although we fell short, we are happy for them. They fought hard and did not give up. We were down by 20 points and for our boys to stay composed and not let up was great to see. We look forward to the future and taking this experience with us and using it to better ourselves as a team!”

In the awards ceremony immediately following the finals, Toves was hailed Regular Season MVP after amassing 37 points, 35 rebounds, 12 steals, 8 blocks, and 4 assists with King winning the Finals MVP after averaging 18.5 points in the two finals matches. Padayao was named Scoring Champ (50), while Rollers Black’s Lucio Aldan was King of Assists (9) and King of Steals (14). Kagman Rollers’ Reid Teregeyo was the King of Rebounds (42) and King of Blocks (8).

Rollers Black 52 – King 13, Naraja 13, Laraja 7, Pelisamen 6, Aldan 5, Diaz 4, Claridades 4.

Ol’Aces 47 – Padayao 23, Atan 10, Fiden 5, Kapwich 4, Laniyo 3, Wabol 2.

Scoring by halves: 29-19, 52-47.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com
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