Rollers Blue claimed the boys U19 division crown in the Rollers 2020 Holiday Tournament after topping Sun Palace, 49-39, last Saturday at the Koblerville Gymnasium.
Rollers Blue came into the title duel with a twice-to-beat advantage, having won all its games in the preliminary round and wrapped up the finals early by beating Sun Palace in Game 1. The eventual champion, though, had to work doubly hard in the second half to fend off Sun Palace, which fought tooth and nail in the majority of the match before firing blanks in the stretch for the loss.
Sun Palace and Rollers Blue were back to square one after the first half, as the game was tied at halftime, 24-all.
Chioni Dela Cruz scored 7 points for Rollers Blue in the first 20 minutes of Game 1, while five of his teammates contributed at least one basket each to keep the match in a deadlock. Kristian Itaas had 2 markers for Sun Palace, including a pair of triples, while Clarence Contreras added another trey and a 2-point basket to keep their team in the game at the break.
When the game resumed, Rollers Blue and Sun Palace were still at it with the former just ahead by 4, 39-35, going into the final 10 minutes and change of the match. Rollers Blue gained some cushion in the second half as it continued to spread the wealth, while Sun Palace could not get baskets in streaks.
Sun Palace then failed to overhaul the deficit in the closing stages of the game, as it made only one field goal—courtesy of J.C. Fabros’ layup—and one free throw each from Tony Kim and Carlos Elchico.
Kim’s split came after he drew a foul on Dela Cruz at the 5:28 mark of the second half with Rollers Blue ahead by 6, 41-35. Kim went for the offensive rebound and claimed he got hit on the head by Dela Cruz, who tried to reach in for the steal. Commotion ensued after that, as Kim pushed Dela Cruz and soon other players (including those in the bench) stepped into the scene. Fortunately, game officials were on top of the situation and managed to prevent the further confrontation of players from the opposing teams.
After some anxious moments in the game, Rollers Blue finished off Sun Palace with Ervin Villarin getting away with two fastbreak layups and Jeff Sagum and Angelo Factor making uncontested baskets in the paint.
Villarin ended up scoring in twin digits for Rollers Blue after tallying 10 points, 8 of them were recorded in the second half. Richardson also 8 of had 10 points in the second half and did a steady job quarterbacking for Rollers Blue.
Itaas paced Sun Palace with his 10 markers, but was limited to one basket in the second half, as he missed a bundle from the 3-point area. Bernardo added 8 points.
Both the Rollers Blue and Sun Palace were awarded trophies at the end of the finals. Individual awards were also handed out to players from the two finalists. Sunjoon Tenorio of Sun Palace took the regular season MVP, while Villarin got the Finals MVP plum. Other individual awardees were Itaas, who topped the assists department (18), and Fabros and Merrick Toves, who ruled the rebounds (29) and blocks (5) categories, respectively.
Rollers Blue 49—Villarin 10, Richardson 10, Dela Cruz 7, Deleon Guerrero 6, Sagum 5, King 4, Atalig 3, Factor 2, Toves 2.
Sun Palace 39—Itaas 10, Bernardo 8, Fabros 6, Kim 5, Contreras 5, Elchico 3, Tenorio 2.
Scoring by halves: 24-24, 49-39.