Toyota Prius had Jeremy Winkfield's back. After their high-leaping swingman crumpled to the floor with an apparent broken shinbone in the third quarter, the remaining hybrids put it upon themselves to win the championship of the BANMI U25 League and went on to beat Ulloa's 95-87. I used Mark Rabago's article for SaipanTribune to cover this story.
Winkfield grabbed an Ulloa's miss, dribbled the length of the floor, and exploded for a two-handed jam that brought the house down, giving Prius a 60-53 spread with a little over six minutes left in the third. However, celebration quickly turned into shock for Prius as the 6'1" phenom failed to get up following an awkward landing that horribly disfigured his left leg. It took a good half hour before paramedics arrived and carried Winkfield off the floor on a stretcher.
When action resumed, a focused Prius team, now bent in winning the ballgame and the championship for their fallen teammate, greeted Ulloa's and proceeded to score four of the next five points opening up a 64-54 spread.
However, the adrenalin could carry them only so much as Ulloa's closed the quarter on an 18-8 run and both teams headed into the fourth and final quarter deadlocked at 72-all. It was again a battle of spurts in the fourth with Ulloa's reclaiming the lead on the very first play, 74-72, on a turnaround medium-range jumper by Gus Palacios. They extended the lead to 76-72 on a putback by Tyrone Palacios, but Prius had a quick reply and went on a 5-0 run to retake the advantage, 77-76, on a layup by Mel Tagabuel with 6:58 remaining.
Prius would build on that lead and went up 83-78 and 86-80, each time with Tagabuel making key baskets. John Sablan, however, would not let Ulloa's go down without a fight and at the 3:51 mark drilled a 3-pointer to make it 86-85 and then swooped for a layup against a phalanx of Prius defenders to return favor back to his team, 87-86, with a little over two minutes to go. Sablan's five-point roll, however, proved to be the team's last hurrah as Pruis closed the contest with a 9-0 run. It was kicked off by a lucky banked 3-pointer by Dan Barcinas, back-to-back buckets by Shan Seman, and a layup by Barcinas that served as icing on the cake. Ulloa's also didn't help their cause by missing point-blank layups and taking ill advised triples, as the team ran out of gas at the end.
Prius coach Gabriel White said his team is dedicating the championship to Winkfield and credited his players for raising their game up several notches with their main offensive weapon out. "This is a very big win after what Jeremy had gone through. His accident basically really inspired us to take this all the way," he said. "Words can't express this. Jeremy inspired us. He told us before being carried off on a stretcher, 'to win this game.' We had one goal in mind and that's to win this game. We've kept our focus and Jeremy is getting our [Finals] MVP award," he said.
Prius forward Dan Barcinas was adjudged regular season MVP during the awards ceremony held after game.
Toyota Prius: 95
Ambrose Ogumoro 25pts
Jeremy Winkfield 17pts
Dan Barcinas 17pts
Mel Tagabuel 13pts
Shan Seman 10pts
John Sablan 34pts
Gyles Ruluked 18pts
Tyrone Palacios 14pts
Josh Sablan 11
Gus Palacios 10