Saipan Vegas Aces, which ruled the 2019 Atkins Kroll Marianas International Basketball League, credits its success in the finals to the defense that the team has instilled in its players since their teens.
According to Saipan Vegas coach Greg Iginoef, many members of the champion squad trained under him since their U15 days and he drilled them continuously on full court pressure defense. Iginoef takes pride in the team’s execution on defense because it gives them the advantage over the opposing squad as Saipan Vegas players are very familiar with it.
Many Saipan Vegas members have been playing side by side for years and this contributes to the team’s triumph in the inaugural league. Saipan Vegas was undefeated in the regular season of the MIBL and swept IT&E in the finals, winning Game 1, 91-69, and Game 2, 91-89 (overtime).
Aside from their defense and familiarity with each other’s game, Iginoef also credits the trust that players and officials of the team share.
“It goes both ways. Without a coach who trusts his players and players who trust their coach, the team wouldn’t be successful,” he said.
Despite finishing the championship series early, Iginoef admitted that there was a time when he became frustrated with his squad. During Game 2, he was a bit upset, as they played sloppy and lost a double-digit lead. Saipan Vegas was on top by 10 after the first quarter, 24-14, but squandered the lead in the second and third periods.
Iginoef’s wards then regained their bearings in the fourth quarter and leaned on their full court pressure defense anew to battle back, send the game into overtime, and ultimately, take the win.
When asked about their competitor, Iginoef also had praises for IT&E.
“In Game 2, IT&E was hungry for a third game, they took the loss in the first finals game hard and they were ready to win. I give them credit for a nice championship game,” he said.
Meanwhile, Iginoef thanked Saipan Vegas for sponsoring his team and also acknowledged the MIBL organizers, participating squads, and spectators.
“They brought life to basketball and they made the game great,” he said.