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By Robert Balajadia
The St. Anthony Raiders were in control of their own destiny and needed to win their final game of the season against the St. John’s Knights to capture the 2014 middle school basketball title, but it was the Knights who were in control of the game by defeating the guest Raiders 43-23 Thursday night to secure second place.
The spotlight was on Knights’ Michael Min and Raiders’ Alschae Grape and Min won the battle netting 30 points, more than the entire Raiders team! Knowing the spotlight was on the two stars of the league, Min commended the talent of Grape.
“[Grape] is an amazing player. He is a hard worker, I just hope he doesn’t feel too bad and uses this to fuel him to make him better,” commented Min on facing the Raiders star.
“[Grape] is a tremendous player and we wanted to see how we could guard one of the best players in the league. Whenever you have a chance to play against a player like that, of course we step up to it and we’re fortunate to get the win,” said Knights head coach John Pangelinan.
The Knights (10-1) were out of first place contention after having lost the Harvest Eagles earlier in the season, thus giving the Eagles sole possession of first place at 10-1.
The Raiders loss to Bishop so they now drop to 4th place behind the Obispos at 3rd as both teams finish 9-2. When asked about how important the win over the Raiders were, Pangilinan responded with,
“Tremendously. We really wanted to win. We wanted to win and let the league know we were a forced to be reckoned with,.”
Right from the opening tip, Min and Grape put points on the board. Min then scored five straight points to end the quarter with 11 points as the Knights led 14-9. Min had outscored the Raiders in the first quarter and had kept his points above the Raiders for the entire game.
The second quarter was dominated by the Knights defense who only allowed one free throw from Grape leading 18-10 heading into the half.
“When you show you have confidence the other teams confidence can go down,” said Min on the Knights dominant performance.
Min got hot again to kick off the second half getting an and-one play on the Knights first possession. Mark Mandapat scored the Raiders first field goal since the first quarter to trim the lead 21-13.
Daryl Delos Santos hit another field goal for the Raiders that appeared to get the boys going still trailing 23-15, but that would be the closest the Raiders would get all game as Min stepped into a three point jumper after a Raiders turnover that gave the Knights momentum to finish the game.
The Raiders kept dialing from distance but no one was answering missing all three point attempts in the 4th quarter.
Dylan Franquez was the unsung hero for the Knights who spent the entire game guarding Grape. Though smaller in size, the speed of Franquez may have caused Grape to be off rhythm as his teammates had difficulties getting him the ball on some possessions.
Min scored on a fast break layup off a steal in the final seconds to give him 28 points and was fouled late to net two free throws for his 30th point, finalizing the score 43-23.
“Putting in those buckets were all possible because of my teammates and coaches. You have to always play like it’s your last game, and I live up to that. Even though this wasn’t for the championship it doesn’t mean we don’t have to play with heart in today’s game,” said Min.
“When you’re able to do anything on the court, and [Grape] is on the same boat, it’s hard to guard a guy like that,” said Pangilinan about having Min controlling his team. “We actually have four other guys on the court who can do the same thing, so if you deny one of our guys, someone is going to score! Tonight we got Min working one-on-one so were lucky.”
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