It’s been a long wait for basketball fans since the Marianas International Basketball League held its first-ever Kings of the Game tournament last December at the Agape Gymnasium along Middle Road. The MIBL released their final Kings of the Game episode last week, showcasing an incredibly close game in a tournament full of one-on-one matches. The “Young Mamba” Coby Santos and Douglas “Spider” Schmidt, both were former players of the CNMI national team, made it to the top of the ladder in a 16-player lineup, besting a bevy of tough competition. Their semifinals were hard fought and set the stage for the tactics they would use in the finals.
Santos and Schmidt duked it out in a tense back-and-forth game that kept attendants on the edge of their seats. The evenly matched pair took their time eyeing each other up from well outside the 3-point line. Rarely did either rush in for a driving shot, and with both players respecting the other’s defense, neither had any success with close-in attempts.
With both using the same long-shot strategy, neither Schmidt nor Santos managed to pass up the other by more than 2 points all game. It came down to the wire when they ended up tied at 10-10, both a single basket away from victory. Schmidt took the first shot, but didn’t sink it, and lost possession to Santos who managed to keep possession for four attempts at the win from outside the 3-point line. But Schmidt kept on the pressure, and never let Santos take a comfortable shot. When he finally got back the ball, Schmidt set himself with a few calming dribbles, and, without having to take a single step, sank the ball clean through the net all the way from the starting line, clinching the victory 12-10.
Schmidt took home a gilded belt, and smiles and cheers echoed around as attendants and competitors celebrated the Spider King’s win in the first-ever Kings of the Game tournament.
This one-on-one tournament was scored with a modified point system, with regular shots and free throws being 1 point each, and shots from beyond the 3-point line being worth 2 points. Games go for 10 minutes, and are won either by the first player to reach 12, or by the leader when the clock runs out. If the 10-minute match is over without a clear winner, the game goes into overtime, and it becomes sudden death. Points in a team game are awarded as 1 for free throws, 2 for regular shots, and 3 for 3-pointers. “This point system is adopted from our 3-on-3 tournaments,” said organizer Clint Albert.
In the leadup to the finals, the first game of the semifinals saw Mak Mintac take on Schmidt in a real contrast of strategies. Mintac rushed in through Schmidt’s defense to take more close shots, showing off his skill with aggressive layups. Schmidt, on the other hand, rarely went in for the close-in shots, and when he did, was deterred by Mintac’s defense. Instead, he took long shots from outside the 3-point line, skillfully racking up a 12-7 victory that took him into the finals.
Santos and Richard McWilliams fought hard in the Final Four, with Santos having not much more success than Schmidt in taking layups, only his first point of the game came from inside the 3-point line. McWilliams kept up the pressure with his own plays driving toward the basket, but consistent long shots led Santos to lead 11-5. McWilliams fouled on the defense when Santos came in hard for the final point, and the resulting free throw ended the game 12-5, putting Santos in the finals and giving him a shot at the championship belt.
Albert said they plan to make the Kings of the Game a recurring event. “We’ll have it again at the end of the year, or early next year.” But before that, the MIBL has a number of other team tournaments to put on. “We have to have the MIBL Semi-Pro tournament finished,” as well as a 3-on-3 tournament, before moving back to the 1-on-1, Albert stated.
It’s certainly been difficult to host large gathering of players, coaches, and the cast of people necessary to put on a full sports league, due to restrictions from COVID-19. “That’s one of the reasons we came up with the 1-on-1 tournament.” Still, things are looking up, according to Albert. “Hopefully things are back to normal by the end of the year.”
You can watch the final match, as well as the semifinals and the rest of the tournament, on the MIBL’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/h97t13hMRrk.