THE NMI Men’s Nationals pulled off an 89-88 victory against the Ol’Aces/Budweiser to move into the finals of the 2006 Budweiser Cup BANMI Island-wide Men’s Basketball League last Saturday at the Gilbert C. Ada Gym.
Mark Wallace drilled four free throws in the closing minutes of the game to seal the win and help the Nationals notched the second finals slot.
Microl/Bud Ice grabbed the first finals berth after stunning pennant champion Samahang Ilokano at Pangasinense/Budlight, 97-91, in the first semis match.
Microl came back from a 49-45 halftime deficit to down the favored SIP, as five of the former’s players scored in double figures to complete a come-from-behind victory.
The battle for the second finals slot was an even tougher fight as neither team was able to lead in double figures.
The Ol’Aces-Nationals semis match featured a couple of lead changes and deadlocks with the last tie at 85-all, after the Ol’Aces’ Elias Rangamar nailed a driving layup, with 1:30 left in the game.
The Nationals inbounded the ball and went for a halfcourt set. Freddie Pelisamen lost his man, drove to the baseline, but at the last minute decided to drop a pass to Mark Wallace, who drew a foul on Abong Camacho on his way to the basket.
The Ol’Aces called a timeout hoping to put pressure on Wallace, who was given two gift shots.
But Wallace delivered under pressure as both two free throws went in giving the Nationals a precarious two-point cushion, 87-85, with 1:14 remaining in the game.
The Ol’Aces got the possession and with the 24-shotclock wining down, Rangamar was forced to pull off a triple on top of the key and missed.
The Nationals went for a fastbreak play with Winkfield sprinting to their frontcourt. He was attempting to drive to the right baseline, but then made a spin move and was blocked by Camacho.
Camacho threw a baseball pass to Rangamar, who tried to shake off Wallace with his dribble. But the Nationals’ forward stuck to Rangamar like a leech forcing the latter to lose the ball on the baseline.
With 30 seconds remaining in the game, the Ol’Aces were forced to give two quick fouls. The last foul that put the Ol’Aces in the penalty was committed by Taj Van Buren, who nudged Wallace.
Wallace stepped on the 15-foot line and calmly sank his first shot, which hit nothing but the bottom of the net. The second charity hit the rim hard, but the ball bounced back to the net giving the Nationals a four-point lead, 89-85, 15.2 seconds remaining.
The Ol’Aces quickly inbounded the ball and Camacho tried to pull off a 3-pointer. But he had two men guarding him so he was forced to pass the ball to Peter Camacho, who threw a triple on top of the key and missed.
Abong Camacho got the offensive rebound and threw a pass to Rangamar, who hit a triple on the right baseline moving the Ol’Aces within one, 88-89.
But the Ol’Aces ran out of time as only 0.5 seconds were left in the match and there was no way they could get the ball back and nail a decent shot.
Wallace and Winkfield topscored for the Nationals with 19 points each, while Jeremu Sablan and Dan Barcinas chipped in 15 and 14 markers, respectively.
John Santos paced the Ol’Aces with 20 points, while Vab Buren added 18. Peter Camacho and Rangamar had 15 points apiece.
In the first game, Dalewin Cortez drilled 14 of his 22 points in the second half, while Kevin Cequena nailed 12 of his 14 markers in the final 20 minutes of the match to move Microl to the finals.
Other double-figure scorers for Microl were Jun Estolas with 19 points, Ruel Aranda with 16 and Eric Dalangain with 121.
Ben Olson led SIP with 23 points, while Jason Gait contributed 18 markers.
The Nationals and Microl were battling for the championship yesterday and the results of the match were unavailable at press time.
Also playing yesterday for t