Back-to-back U20 titles for Sonics

The Sonics pose for a team photo after winning the championship of the Rotary caging U20 division last Friday night at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium. (Walter Sutherland) The Sonics captured their second consecutive championship in the Rotary Club of Saipan's 21st Annual Youth Basketball League U20 age division after completing a 59-53 victory over Marianas Resort-Proa last Friday night at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.

The Sonics are made up of Bryl Alegre, Jack Aranda, Melvin Cadiang, Ezra Caro, Jaymark Deguzman, Herman Del Rosario, Eldiberto Javier III, Paul Mariano, Adrian Palacios, Nevin Salem, Tim Sula, Jimmy Tudela, and John Paul Villanueva. Omar Ojoste served as their coach.

Cadiang, Caro, Del Rosario, Palacios, Sula, and Villanueva are moving on next season, but the group still has a good core of players coming back next season.

“All season long I wanted them to focus primarily on defense and was confident that the offense would be there provided that they communicated and play smart by sharing the ball to find the open man,” said Ojoste after the awards ceremony.

“We were well prepared coming into the game because these guys put in their work during practice as they did all season, and I'm proud of them for achieving their goal.finishing undefeated was also an added treat. We want to thank our sponsor Jesse Tudela and all of the parents and supporters that came to cheer us on as well,” added Ojoste.

Ojoste also tipped his cap to Proa for proving to be a worthy rival, though his Sonics maintained just under a 10-point advantage for the majority of the game.

Proa actually held the upper hand, 12-10, in the opening 10 minutes as both teams set a defensive tone out of the gate.

Proa's Shane Deleon Guerrero-Diaz thrice found the bottom of the net and received a couple baskets in support from the league scoring champ Ichitaro Faisao, while the Sonics remained patient and managed four free throws on the other end to keep close in pursuit.

The Sonics then gashed Proa with an 18-point surge in the second quarter to claim control, 28-19 at the half.

Jack Aranda and Melvin Cadiang teamed up for 10 checks to turn the table.

Proa tried to mount a comeback after intermission and trimmed it to 6, 33-39, heading into the final period, but the Sonics were quick to reclaim their three-possession advantage early in the fourth quarter and rode it to the final buzzer.

Nevin Salem came off the bench in the clutch and delivered 8 big points that was complemented by four pressure-packed free throws by Cadiang in the final minute that helped secure the win.

Salem finished as the top scorer for the champs with a dozen markers and received most valuable player honors in the finals after the game.

Rotary Club of Saipan president Richard Cody was in attendance to present the awards along with Rotarianne Kelly Butcher and Basketball Association of the NMI's talent officer Ellias Rangamar.

In the consolation match, Hi-5 was automatically declared the 2nd runners-up as a result of a no-show by Rollers 1. More details about the other awardees of both the U20 and U16 divisions will be released later this week.

Rollers 1 did not attend because the group is preparing to compete in Guam's Take Care-Thanksgiving Hoopfest tournament next week.

Hi-5 raised some eyebrows this year for coming on very strong down the homestretch. The team won the last two games heading into the playoffs and upset third-ranked Rollers 2 for a berth into the semifinals where they came up just short against Proa, 61-58, in a hard-fought battle last Thursday.

That game started out with Hi-5 clinging to a slim 11-9 lead in the first quarter thanks largely to a trio of free throws by Richard Hofschneider, but Proa awoke in the second period and moved in front, 27-22, at halftime as Faisao and Delon Guerrero-Diaz hooked up for 11 markers as Proa's defense limited Hi-5 to only 11 points.

Proa then stretched it to a double-digit margin, 46-33, in the third quarter with another impressive defensive performance as Deleon Guerrero-Diaz added another 6 checks that was complemented by 5 points from Ethan Manalili.

Proa got a little sloppy in the end, but managed to convert three late free throws and hung on for the win.

Hi-5 had its chances, but missed too many opportunities earlier in the game and ran out of time as it began to mount a late comeback.

Faisao's 16 points topped the boxscore, while Leo Cristobal led Hi-5 with 11.


Sonics 59
- Salem 12, Cadiang 10, Deguzman 8, Caro 7, Alegre 6, Tudela 4, A. Palacios 4, Villanueva 3.

Mariana Resort Proa 53 - Deleon-Guerreo Diaz 17, Mettao 15, Faisao 8, Jas Palacios 6, Manalili 5, Jac Palacios 2.

Scoring by quarters: 10-12, 28-19, 39-33, 59-53.


Mariana Resort Proa 61
- Faisao 16, Deleon Guerrero-Diaz 14, Mettao 7, Jas. Palacios 6, Manalili 5, Villagomez 3, Yap 2, Taitano 2, Sanarez 2, Jac. Palacios 2.

- Cristobal 11, Macahito 10, Je Villanueva 9, Hockett 8, Feria 8, Hofschneider 5.

Scoring by quarters:
9-11, 27-22, 46-33, 61-58.


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