TanHoldings wins nail-biter


TanHoldings’ Lerio Pagarao, left, stretches for a layup after slipping past the defense of Mariana Resort’s Sandrew Kani during the deciding Game 3 of their title series in the JEM/Mobil caging last Wednesday at the Gillette Multipurpose Gymnasium. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

TanHoldings survived a scare from Mariana Resort, 91-88, in the deciding Game 3 of their title series in the JEM Company Ltd./Mobil Customer Appreciation Basketball League last Wednesday at the Gillette Multipurpose Gymnasium.

Returning from the Game 2 suspension, Lerio Pagarao made three pressure-packed free throws to save the day for TanHoldings, which led by as much as 15 points in the fourth quarter only to be threatened in the homestretch by the hard-fighting Mariana Resort.

Mariana Resort put the spectators of the do-or-die game at the edge of their seats as it tied the match at 88-all, after Jun Fidelino, who also came out of the Game 2 suspension, scored 5 straight points off a triple and another long jumper.

The deadlock was recorded at the last 13.2 seconds of the game and with no timeout left, TanHoldings went for the quick inbound with Pagarao on the finishing end and fishing for a foul on Frank Lifoifoi. Lifoifoi took the bait, sending Pagarao to the foul line where he nailed his first charity to give TanHoldings the shaky lead, 89-88. He missed the second free throw, but fortunately, Lifoifoi touched the ball last before it rolled out to the baseline as the latter battled the rebound against TanHoldings’ Elmer Esdrelon.

TanHoldings regained possession down to the final 8.5 seconds and with the clock ticking after the inbound play, Mariana Resort’s Prince Factor was forced to foul Pagarao. The TanHoldings player this time went perfect at the stripe, as both of his attempts hit nothing but the bottom of the net.

After Pagarao’s clutch charities, Mariana Resort had to inbound from the backcourt as it was out of timeout, too. Fidelino then received the pass from Mel Sakisat, but was quickly hounded by two TanHoldings defenders and fell on the ground. The ball rolled to the sideline, but it was touched last by Demapan so Mariana Resort kept the possession with 2.9 seconds remaining in the game. The time left proved to be not enough for Mariana Resort to pull up for a shot, as after Sakisat’s inbound, Frank Lifoifoi dribbled once and then kicked the ball out to Fidelino, who unloaded a triple from the right corner and missed after the final buzzer had already sounded.

TanHoldings saved the win and took the championship despite playing without its top gunner Douglas Schmidt, who was still nursing a sprain he sustained in their Game 2 loss last Monday.

Pagarao, who sat out in Game 2 after getting involved in a bench-clearing scuffle in Game 1, stepped up in place of Schmidt, scoring 24 points. Bart Demapan paced TanHoldings with his 26 markers, while Jarett Matsutaro, who was also suspended in Game 2, did his share, too in the win, adding 13. R.J. Nonato and Esdrelon made 14 apiece to complete TanHoldings’ box scores.

With TanHoldings’ balance offense, it opened a double-digit spread at halftime, 50-39. However, Mariana Resort moved within a deuce past the halfway mark of the third period, 57-59, as Sandrew Kitani, J.R. Lifoifoi, and Factor teamed up in the rally.

Sensing trouble, TanHoldings sued for time and when the game resumed it had a 13-3 windup to bring its lead back to twin digits. Pagarao tallied 5 markers in that surge and TanHoldings got several points from the foul line to widen the gap, entering the final canto.

TanHoldings went on to establish its biggest lead in the game, 79-64, after winning the exchange, 7-3, in the opening minute of the fourth period. However, Mariana Resort slowly trimmed the lead down with Carlo Prado starting the rally with a triple and J.R. Lifoifoi, Sakisat, and Factor also contributing in the recovery.

Mariana Resort sliced the deficit to two twice, but baskets from Matsutaro and Nonato prevented the eventual runner-up from grabbing the lead. Nonato’s point-blanked shot off an entry pass from Pagarao gave TanHoldings an 88-83 lead, 48.6 seconds left in the game.

However, that was the last field goal for TanHoldings as it turned the ball over twice, allowing Mariana Resort to even up the count before Pagarao came to the former’s rescue.

TanHoldings 91— Demapan 26, Pagarao 24, Nonato 14, Esdrelon 14, Matsutaro 13.

Mariana Resort 88 — Fidelino 23, Sakisat 15, Prado 13, J. Lifoifoi 12, Kani 11, Factor 10, F. Lifoifoi 2, James 2.

Scoring by quarters: 19-18, 50-39, 72-60, 91-88.

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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