By Regina Shiroma
The game of the underdogs played out to be a treat for fans present and those watching live on our website. The matchup between the Okkodo Bulldogs and the St. John’s Knights ended with the Bulldogs storming away with the first place trophy and right to call themselves champions. After four full quarters of play, the Bulldogs defeated the Knights 52-46 Saturday night at the University of Guam Field House.
In the final quarter, the Bulldogs took a slim one-point lead thanks to Joel Oryardo’s offensive rebound followed by a jump shot with the clock reading six minutes left. Another two points from Oryardo had them leading 45-42. Reed Meyer tossed in a layup soon after, and closed the gap to just one. The Bulldogs answered back with two more baskets and were going on their third, but were stopped short though they had the 2-on-1 advantage over Knights’ Cedric Sevilla. Trying to stop the clock, the Knights fouled Keeno Madrazo and Oyardo. A few free throws later, the final whistle was blown and a sigh of relief and cheering relected the Bulldogs’ team.
“’Think about the goal, and not do anything out of character. Be smart and take it home,’” said Bulldogs’ head coach Ed Manalac of what he told his team in the final seconds of the game. “These guys have been playing basketball for so long; they’re smart enough to realize what they need to do to finish off the game. We had situations during the season where we didn’t end the game where we wanted to and they learned from that. So those two/three losses during the regular season kind of was a blessing in disguise. ”
It was a battle of the defenses as both teams had very similar defense styles and it showed in their stats. The Bulldogs worked their defense throughout the night, specifically shutting down the Knight’s offense in the paint. Their tight defense kept the Knight’s offense at bay, capping off their top scorers at ten points.
“Move your feet; be smart about it; don’t gamble; try not to always go for the steal. Stay safe, just keep moving your feet,” recalled Okkodo’s Aaron Blaz of his coach’s words about their defense as Blaz played a big role that side of the ball.
Despite their defeat, the Knights still proved to be a worthy opponent as the lead switched often throughout the game. Led by Sevilla on defense, the Knights also displayed their defensive tenacity collectively grabbing eight steals.
Both teams played effective defenses managing to force Bulldogs’ Oyardo and Knights’ Flores, two efficient point guards, into an uncommon six turnovers.
Bulldog’s Joseph Ruppen led all scorers with 16 points. “It feels great to be a champion!” said Ruppen.
Bulldogs shot 49% from the field versus the Knights’ 39%.
Sevilla, Flores, and Meyer each had ten points. Sevilla also tallied three steals.
Notes: “Shout out to my sister, I’m so happy she’s here, and to my mom and my other sister back home, this is for them.” –Aaron Blaz; “To my family, my friends, my team, my coaches, and everyone that came to support me. Thank you!” –Joseph Ruppen. “Shout out to my family, my wife; she’s been very patient all season!” –Coach Manalac
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