Saipan Apparel, Ol’Aces near finals


The Ol’Aces Gino Libuw drives baseline against 5-Star Construction’s Francis Estanislao, right, and Michael Cabanas, during an earlier playoff game in the MIBF outdoor league at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium. The Ol’Aces are a win away from advancing to the finals after prevailing in their first two matches in the playoff round. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Saipan Apparel and the Ol’Aces stepped closer to a finals stint in the Mariana Islands Basketball Federation’s Inaugural Men’s Outdoor League after posting contrasting wins last Tuesday at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.

The Ol’Aces moved one victory away from advancing to the championship round after winning via forfeit against Duenas Compound, which was a no-show in the scheduled second Final Four game. Duenas Compound argued it did not know the team was set to play last Tuesday, but league organizers insisted the squad was informed of the schedule right after its victory against San Antonio Patriots last week. Duenas Compound eventually accepted the loss and would need to win against Ace Hardware to keep its finals hopes alive.

While the Ol’Aces got a free victory, Saipan Apparel labored for its 95-81 overtime triumph versus Ace Hardware in the first game of the double-elimination Final Four round.

Saipan Apparel caught fire in the extension, exploding for 21 points for the 14-point winning margin.

Earlier in regulation, Jerome Norita knocked in the game-tying triple with a minute and change left in the fourth quarter. The opposing teams then traded misses in the remaining minutes of the final canto, bringing the game into overtime.

In the extra period, Ace Hardware often misfired and was held to three field goals, while Saipan Apparel was on target, drilling one shot after another. Veteran Ed Diaz led Saipan Apparel’s strong finish after making 8 points in overtime.

Diaz led Saipan Apparel’s balance scoring with his 24 points. Norita had 19, Kelvin Fitial contributed 16, and Derrick Rangamar and Ben Lisua chipped in 15 and 14, respectively.

As for Ace Hardware’s side, Ken Viray carried the load for the losing team after sizzling for 37 points. Ace Hardware played without one of its scorers—Sid Quan.

Viray started his hot shooting with back-to-back triples in the first quarter, which ended with Ace Hardware ahead, 21-16. Viray finished the opening canto with 11 points and added 10 more in the second to keep his team in front at the break, 38-34.

Viray continued to lift Ace Hardware on his shoulders, while Saipan Apparel spread the wealth in the third to force a standoff, 51-51, entering the fourth quarter. The game remained close in the final canto with Ace staying in the match by burying four straight triples midway and Marvin Rabauliman’s 5 consecutive points in the closing minutes. However, the fourth canto belonged to Norita as he canned the equalizer.

Meanwhile, the do-or-die game between Ace Hardware and Duenas Compound will be played this Saturday at 7pm, while Saipan Apparel and the Ol’Aces will duel tonight for the first finals berth. The loser of tonight’s match will face the winner of this Saturday’s game on Jan. 24 for the second and last finals ticket. Then on Jan. 26, Game 1 of the finals will take place at 7pm, while Game 2, if necessary, is scheduled for Jan. 27 at the same start time.

Saipan Apparel 95 – Diaz 24, Norita 19, Fitial 16, Rangamar 15, Lisua 14, Teregeyo 4, Lizama 2, Andrew 1.

Ace Hardware 81 – Viray 37, Brennan 10, Sablan 8, Rabauliman 8, Evans 7, Younis 4, Lauron 4, Rosario 2.

Scoring by quarters: 16-21, 34-38, 51-51, 74-74, 95-81 (OT).

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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