Tinian Junior Senior High School played the game of adjustments well to rule the 2019-2020 Public School System Interscholastic Boys High School Basketball League.
The Stallions ended their six-season title drought, as they edged regular season top finisher Mt. Carmel School in the Game 2 rubber, 38-36, earlier this month at the Marianas High School Gymnasium.
Mt. Carmel swept the round-robin preliminaries for an impressive 11-0 record and the top seed going into the double-elimination playoffs that took place last March 13 to 14. Tinian, on the other hand, automatically got the middle seeding—No. 5—as the Stallions could not travel to Saipan on a regular basis to play in the elimination round matches.
“We came into the playoffs without having the opportunity to scout the teams,” said Keith Nabors, who along with his brother, Karl, volunteered to call the shots for the champion squad.
Not knowing how the Knights and the other teams in the tournament play, the Stallions took what their opponents threw at them and then counter-attacked.
“When we faced a slow team, we adjusted our game and pushed the ball hard. When we saw the other team fielding small players on the court, we instructed our big guys to go inside and do their thing,” said Keith, who was also the Stallions coach when they won the boys high school tournament in 2012 and 2013.
In the 2019-2020 finale against the Knights, Tinian had the advantage in ceiling and Leo Epity and Tyler Santos capitalized, as they gave the Stallions a lot of second, third, and even fourth opportunities to score while toying around the boxing out abilities of Mt. Carmel’s much smaller frontliners.
Out of those many battles in the paint, the biggest one came in the homestretch of the deciding Game 2 with Sir Dela Cruz leaping over the back of Mt. Carmel’s Steve King and getting the offensive board. Dela Cruz went on to hit the dagger after the rebound.
Meanwhile, Keith commended his players for buying into the system, working on every adjustment they were making in the game, and executing almost every instructions he and his brother gave the Stallions.
“Whether we told them to work on their offense or defense, they were focused on getting the job done,” said Keith.
The long-time Stallions coach also boasted the players’ fitness level, saying that though they did not see action in any regular season games, the Stallions never stopped training and are in good shape since last summer when they won the Pacific Amusement/NMI Rollers Youth Basketball Tournament at the Koblerville Gymnasium.
“It was a very long tournament with teams playing multiple games in one day. It’s good that our players are physically ready for the tough schedule,” Keith said.
Tinian made it to the finals first after beating Mt. Carmel in the second round of the winners bracket, while the Knights advanced after playing several knockout matches in the losers’ draw with less than an hour of rest in between. Game 1 of the finals was played about 30 minutes after the last semis game, while Game 2 took place 25 minutes after the opener concluded.
“Despite beating Mt. Carmel the first time we met, there was no time to celebrate because we knew that the next games will be much harder. We had to limit Mt. Carmel’s shooters to beat them again and be physically and mentally ready for the tough grind in the finals. I am glad we came through it all,” Keith said.