Toka eliminates Blue Haus, enters finals


Toka dethroned Blue Haus after an emphatic 83-69 win in their semis duel in the 2014 QQ Rent A Car Invitational Basketball League last Friday night at the Garapan Basketball Court.

Toka recovered from a slow start and seized control of the match late in the first quarter to oust Blue Haus and advance to the best-of-three title series against JP World. Game 1 of the finals will be played tonight at 8pm after the 6:30pm consolation game between Blue Haus and Island Manpower.

Behind 4-12, Toka held Blue Haus to 2 points and one field goal in the last four minutes of the first quarter to grab the upper hand, 16-14. Toka never looked back, stretching its advantage in the last three periods and withstanding Blue Haus’ fourth-quarter rally.

Blue Haus played catch up since losing the driver’s seat at the end of the first canto, as it hit baskets sporadically and relied heavily on one-on-one moves, while Toka moved the ball well and often found open men for easy baskets.

With Toka playing unselfish basketball and going for a spread-out offense, it increased the shaky 2-point lead to double figures by the end of the halftime, 35-23. Four Toka players scored at least to baskets apiece in the second canto, while two more contributed at least one field goal. Blue Haus, on the other hand, was held to four field goals and 9 markers, its lowest output in a quarter. Leo Galarse, Ivan De Vero, and Lerio Pagarao, who are known scorers, were a no-show in the second canto. Galarse was limited to one field goal, while Devero and Pagarao were scoreless and struggled all night. Darwin Barbo was the only Blue Haus player to post more than two points in the second period.

The deposed champion continued to have a lackluster offense and fell on a deeper hole in the third quarter, as Marvin Rabauliman stepped up for Toka, unloading 8 of his 14 points in that period, which ended with his team on top by 19, 59-40.

Again, the guards of Blue Haus were off in the third with Galarse held to a free throw and Devero and Pagarao making only two points each, leaving Elmer Esdrelon the tough task to keep the team afloat. Esdrelon tallied 7 points in the third and was the only player from his team to register more than 3 points. It did not help that Blue Haus’ frontliners also failed to assert their might against the much smaller, but quicker big men of Toka.
With Toka giving Blue Haus a clinic, the former padded its lead to as much as 24, 64-40, early in the fourth quarter before the former made one final push for a comeback. Galarse led the rally, scoring 8 points in the 17-5 exchange to move Blue Haus within 12, 57-69. The 2013 champion then had a chance to slice the deficit to 10 when it forced a turnover off Toka’s inbound play, but faltered on two straight attempts. The first miss came from Pagarao, who drove to the basket, but his shot was short, while the second was an airball from Brendon Talania near the 15-foot line after Devero got the offensive board.

Two free throws from Dan Barcinas ended Blue Haus’ run and restored order back to Toka, which went for a strong finish in the last two minutes of the match to march into the finals. Toka’s win was a sort of revenge, as core of the squad also played for NMC/Proa, which lost to Blue Haus in the finals last season.

Toka 83 – Lizama 15, Barcinas 14, Rabauliman 14, Tudela 10, Joyner 8, Mendoza 6, Basa 6, Lampkin 4, Caro 3.
Blue Haus 69 – Esdrelon 16, Galarse 13, Barbo 12, Talania 4, Devero 4, Demapan 4, Santos 4, Pagarao 4, De Dios 2.
Scoring by quarters: 16-14, 35-23, 59-40, 83-69.

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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