Rollers Blue wins U17 finale


Rollers Blue’s Jeremiah Diaz, front, tries to recover a loose ball down the baseline, while the Ol’Aces’ Lucio Aldan defends during the second half of their title match in the U17 division of the Rollers 2020 Holiday Tournament yesterday at the Koblerville Gymnasium. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Rollers Blue ruled the U17 division of the Rollers 2020 Holiday Tournament after dominating the Ol’Aces, 37-24, in their title match yesterday at the Koblerville Gymnasium.

Rollers Blue took control of Game 1 of the finals showdown right at the get-go en route to building a 14-point halftime lead and then protected its double-digit advantage in the second half to close out the title duel early. Rollers Blue held a twice-to-beat advantage in the finals after having an unbeaten record in the preliminary round and avoided going into the rubber this weekend by finishing off the Ol’Aces, who reached the championship round after eliminating the Chinatown Titans last Sunday, 50-42.

Merrick Toves, Jeremiah Diaz, Jay Art Palmes, Leo Naraja, and T.J. Factor knocked in at least two field goals apiece for Rollers Blue in the first half and combined for all, but one of the team’s baskets in the opening frame for their 24-10 lead at the break.

The Ol’Aces failed to keep up with Rollers Blue on offense in the first 20 minutes of the finals, as the former were held to three field goals. Airson Atan, who scored 15 points in their semis win over the Titans, made only two free throws in the first half. Craig Padayao also struggled as after delivering 12 markers in their semis victory, he was scoreless in the first half of the finals.

In the second half, the Ol’Aces gunners still could not find their target, while Toves knocked in a couple of jumpers to keep Rollers Blue’s safe distance and Factor scored the champion team’s last 3 points to seal the victory.

Rollers Blue players and coaches pose for a photo after beating the Ol’Aces in the finals, 37-24.(Contributed Photo)

Factor’s field goal and a split charity came when the Ol’Aces cut the deficit to 10, 24-34, after Padayao nailed only his second basket in the finals. The Ol’Aces then had several chances to bring down Rollers Blue’s lead to single digit, but could not cash in on those opportunities. The last ones were when Atan drove strong to the basket and eluded a couple of defenders, but his layup fell short. Lucio Aldan went for the put-back, but overshot his mark.

Toves collared the rebound and quickly gave the ball to Leo Naraja, who sprinted to the their frontcourt, drew the defense of Padayao on his way to the basket before making a no-look back pass to Factor, who then banked in the point-blank shot for Rollers Blue’s 36-26 lead, down to the last two minutes and change in the finals.

Another Ol’Aces missed opportunity returned possession to Rollers Blue and Factor later trooped to the 15-foot line after going for the basket and getting a foul from Aldan. Factor muffed his first free shot, but knocked in the second one to give Rollers Blue a baker’s dozen lead, 37-24, with a little over a minute left in the match.

The scores remained, as the Ol’Aces continued to fire blanks in the closing minutes of the game, while Rollers Blue wisely ran down the clock and celebrated when the final buzzer sounded.

The Ol’Aces’ C.J. Santos, left, and Rollers Blue’s Charlie McDonald, center, jockey for position in the rebound play during the second half of their title match in the U17 division of the Rollers 2020 Holiday Tournament yesterday at the Koblerville Gymnasium. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Rollers Blue and the Ol’Aces were awarded the championship and runner-up trophies in a brief ceremony, while organizers also handed out individual trophies. Toves took the Finals MVP award after scoring 13 points in the title game, while Padayao bagged the season MVP. Toves got two more awards, as he also topped the blocks (eight) and rebounds (22) departments, while Naraja won in the assist category (eight) and Aldan prevailed in steals (14).

With Rollers Blue taking the U17 title last night and Rollers Red winning the U13 crown, only two more division championships will be contested—the boys U19 and women’s. The winners of the two remaining divisions will be decided this Saturday.

Meanwhile, Rollers Basketball Club would like to thank Pacific Amusement, QQ Rent A Car, and MARPAC for supporting the competition and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force for giving them clearance to hold the tournament.

Rollers Blue 37—Toves 13, Palmes 9, Naraja 7, Factor 7, Diaz 7, Li 1.

Ol’Aces 24— Aldan 7, Atan 5, Padayao 4, Ermitanio 3, David 3, Kaipat 2.

Scoring by halves: 24-10, 37-24.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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