Koblerville Elementary School 1 beat William S. Reyes Elementary School in the finals and successfully defended their championship in the IT&E Interscholastic Co-ed Elementary School Basketball League 2022-2023 last Saturday morning at the newly air-conditioned Marianas High School Gymnasium.
Despite the cool gym, the heat was turned up in the court as the Umangs and Kingfishers were neck-and-neck in a nail-biting finale for the crown—both teams taking turns at the net with the final score of 24-15.
The Umangs’ Logan Daniel was a ball magnet as he scored all but 2 of his team’s points for a game-high 22 points. The other field goal was made by Zowie Deleon Guerrero after an offensive rebound.
The Kingfishers’ Joshua Lizama and Landin Reyes scored 4 points each in the first half, putting the pedal to the metal and keeping pace with the Umangs with an 8-10 finish, but fatigue kicked in and the team eventually gassed out in the last period as the Umangs pulled the lead further away from their grasp.
Lizama totaled 10 points, Reyes scored 4, and Javin Sablan scoreds a point.
The championship team also includes Napu Pangelinan, Nnart Siech, Tiwsormal Taisakan, Iku Benavente, Shy’Annelei Mallens, Uriyah Castro, Ha’anisha Taitano, Lovan Ngeskebei, Ethan Suda, Brayden Fanagiluy, Agen Iglesias, and Efren Salasiban.
The Umangs advanced to the finals after going undefeated in the playoffs against Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School, Kagman Elementary School, and Grace Christian Elementary School.
Coached by Francis Mendiola, this is the Umang’s third championship after winning the 2019-2020 and 2021-2022 seasons.
Mendiola said after the game that this season was hard as he expected the season to start next year in March. “The preparation was hard… teaching them the basics, shooting, everything. A lot of these guys were not in the team last year, so to have two teams this year was very important. We also helped each other prepare each other for the tournament. Too bad our sister team KES 2 didn’t make it but they were also a strong team.”
The fifth-grade teacher said that the whole Umangs 1 team is graduating and that most of them are his students.
As for the strategy in the finals, Mendiola said, “with WSR, they were very quick, so we got to neutralize their main point guard… We wanted him to go to the right where we killed him because he likes to go in the middle. I noticed all these games, but… I said let’s bring him to the right, let’s cut off the lane, and then go for the rebound from there. And then our main guy, Logan, he was really good. These last two games he stepped up… last Friday… there [were] so [many] people and he was just shocked. So luckily now we [had] less people so he [was] more concentrated on playing the game.”
He then thanked KES parents, former players, alumni, teachers, and admin for supporting their sports program and Public School System athletics program director Nick Gross for setting up the tournament again.
Daniel, who has been playing basketball since he was 5 years old, said that “it feels good” winning the championship.
Earlier in the morning, the Kingfishers flew their way to the finals from the loser’s bracket and had just won over GCA. Before that they bested Garapan Elementary School 2 with the Kingfishers resting only a few minutes before revving it up against the Umangs.
The IT&E Interscholastic Co-ed Elementary School Basketball League 2022-2023 season was organized by the Public School System Athletic Program with help from the Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation.
KES 1 24 – Daniel 22, Deleon Guerrero 2.
WSR 15 – Lizama 10, Reyes 4, Sablan 1.
Scoring by halves: 10-8; 24-15.