Saipan Tribune clinched a semis slot in the 2017 Tan Holdings Inter-Company Basketball League after beating POI Aviation, 58-47, in the final elimination round game last Friday at the Gillette Multipurpose Gymnasium.
Saipan Tribune finished the elimination with a 5-5 record to rank third in the team standings and join Fiesta Resort (10-0) and Kanoa Resort (7-3) in the Final Four. POI ended up with a 4-6 mark, the same record that Shirley’s Coffee Shop earned after falling to Fiesta (65-70) in last Friday’s second game. POI and Shirley’s deadlock will be broken via point system (total points scored in 10 games minus total points allowed) and organizers have yet to announce the winner in the tie and owner of the fourth and last semis berth at press time.
Djay Ong, who flew in from Guam last Thursday just to play in the crucial game, made sure Saipan Tribune would not be caught in a tiebreak for the final semis ticket, as he scored 34 points to power his squad to the important victory.
Ong had 9 straight points in Saipan Tribune’s 11-2 windup in the last four minutes and change of the first half, helping his squad turn an 18-13 lead to a double-digit advantage, 29-15. Lester Lapuz delivered the 2 other points in Saipan Tribune’s strong finish in the first half, while POI’s lone basket was courtesy of Nak Nakashima’s outback.
The 6’1” Ong continued to do the damage for Saipan Tribune in the second half, upping the team’s lead to as much as 17 before POI mounted a comeback behind Nakashima and Ferdie Arago. Arago’s acrobatic shot over the outstretched arms of Ong brought the deficit down to single digit, 26-35, but Mico Usi knocked in a rally-halting triple to bring order back to Saipan Tribune.
Despite its failed attempt to move closer, POI still fought back and cut the deficit to 10 a couple of times. However, Ong and Lester Lapuz alternately nailed baskets that disrupted POI’s momentum and kept Saipan Tribune’s safe distance en route to the squad’s 11-point win.
With the semis-clinching victory, Saipan Tribune arrange a duel for a final berth against the second-ranked Kanoa Resort, while Fiesta will dispute the other finals ticket against the winner of the Shirley’s-POI tiebreak.
Fiesta completed a sweep of the elimination after eking out a 5-point win over Shirley’s.
Fiesta made free throws in the homestretch and leaned on Troy Ngirarois and Lerio Pagarao in the second half to foil Shirley’s upset bid and take the No. 1 spot in the team standings. Ngiraois finished with a team-high 14 points, while Pagarao added 11. John Jugos had 21 markers on a losing effort for Shirley’s.
Fiesta Resort 70 — Ngirarois 14, Pagarao 11, Nonato 8, Demafeliz 8, Esdrelon 6, Arreza 6, Matsutaro 4, Magat 3, Sedillo 2, Francisco 2.
Shirley’s 65 — Jugos 21, Laxa 15, Guiab 15, Diaz 7, Palma 4, Bordon 2, Alonzo 2.
Scoring by halves: 34-33, 70-65.
Saipan Tribune 58 — D. Ong 34, Lapuz 12, Usi 6, Orbeta 2, Angeles 2, Calibo 2.
POI Aviation 47— Santos 13, Nakashima 12, Tenepere 8, Arago 6, Kaipat 6, Yu 2.
Scoring by halves: 29-15, 58-47.