With Saipan Vegas and IT&E’s lone encounter in the elimination round of the 2019 Atkins Kroll Marianas International Basketball League decided by just a deuce, expect another down-to-the-wire battle in their finals showdown, starting tonight at the Marianas High School Gymnasium.
Saipan Vegas is coming into Game 1 of the short best-of-three title series with a slight psychological advantage due to its thrilling 80-78 victory in their Sept. 28 meeting with IT&E in the regular season.
Before the sorry loss, IT&E seemed poised to end Saipan Vegas’ winning streak when Junar Guiab hit a go-ahead triple, 78-77, with five seconds left in the close game. However, Saipan Vegas had the last say, thanks to Preston Basa’s buzzer-beating triple off a broken play.
After nosing out IT&E, Saipan Vegas went on to notch four more victories to finish the regular season undefeated and earn the top seed. IT&E ended up as the No. 2 seed in the playoffs after its lone defeat in the elimination and now has a chance to redeem that loss in the finals.
Both IT&E and Saipan Vegas swept their way to the championship round. IT&E won in its semis series against MS Villagomez after taking Game 1, 94-59, and Game 2, 90-80, while Saipan Vegas topped Caravan’s in Game 1, 96-81, and Game 2, 80-76.
For their head-to-head match, besides the 2 points that separated IT&E and Saipan Vegas, the finalists were also pretty close in the assists and steals departments. IT&E had more assists, 22-19, while Saipan Vegas prevailed in the steals category, 23-17.
In the rebounds department, IT&E won, 55-29, due to its much taller frontliners. However, Saipan Vegas is expected to offset IT&E’s better ceiling with its faster and younger guns who will also lead the squad’s potent backcourt pressure defense that has paid dividends for the pennant champion in the elimination round.
The finals opener will be played starting at 6:30pm, while Game 2 is set for Sunday, also at the MHS Gymnasium at the same time. Game 3, if needed, is set for Nov. 19 with the venue to be announced later.