By Patrick Lujan
With the game safely secured, the Father Duenas student body confidently rained down the chant of “UN-DE-FEATED” in the Phoenix Center Friday night.
In a battle of the last two unbeaten teams at 8-0, the Friars outmuscled the St. Paul Warriors and outplayed their visitors in nearly every aspect of a big 59-39 win.
“FD is just a better team,” St. Paul head coach Paul Pineda said. “Hat’s off to FD. They kicked our butts. They killed us in every phase of the game. They’re more talented and you can see the experience.”
The Friars dominated the boards (34-13) and suffocated the St. Paul talented backcourt of Tito Canovas and Shiek Carino on their way toward taking a big step in this season’s journey.
Not only did the Friars control the boards, but the defense frustrated the Warriors weapons into shooting only 17 percent (4-for-23) in the first half.
The Friars took control from the get go as Baza got the fired-up home crowd going with a quick 3-point play. He completed another 3-point play at the end of the opening quarter to gain a comfortable 14-6 lead.
Junior center Jeremiah Taitano was a monster underneath, pulling down nine first-half rebounds and finished with seven points and 13 boards.
Meanwhile, the FD offense was flowing smoothly as a couple of treys from Nick Aglubat in the second quarter from each corner helped extend the Friar lead to 28-14 at the break.
“We’re showing promise,” FD head coach Eddie Pelkey said. “We have an ultimate goal and we took a big step tonight.”
The Warriors were much improved in the third quarter as their lone big man John San Andres woke up with eight points in the period, but they could not get any closer than 10 points when Canovas’ offensive putback cut it to 36-26 with 1:40 left in the third.
Holding a 40-28 lead heading into the final quarter, Baza quickly ended any chance of a comeback with two strong layups at the onset of the quarter. It was all time management from there as the Friars kept the Warriors at bay.
“We just wanted to defend home,” Pelkey added. “ We’ve been away and we felt it was important to defend home.”
Because of scheduling conflicts at with Phoenix Center, the Friars were forced to play seven of their first eight games on the road.
Baza was named the McDonald’s Player of the Game finishing with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting and six assists. Big man Michael Sakazaki added 14 points and six rebounds despite being in foul trouble early on.
For St. Paul, Canovas had 12 points while Carino and San Andres added 11 apiece as they finished with a 31 percent shooting night as a team. The Friars shot 51 percent.
“We’re surprised that we’ve done this well with the young team that we have,” Pineda said about the Warriors, who have only one senior on the roster (Canovas).
The only blemish for the FD were the turnovers as it committed 23 turnovers – 10 in the first quarter alone. St. Paul committed 12.
Guam High 38, Sanchez 34
GW 70, Harvest 49
Okkodo 61, Southern 51
JFK 94, Notre Dame 64
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