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KNIGHTS DENY FRIARS TITLE SHOT IN SEMIS NAILBITER

The St. John’s Knights are finally going back to the IIAAG Boys Basketball Championship game. The Knights took down the Gadao Division top seed FD Friars 52-50 in a thriller at the FD Phoenix Center.

By Jay Leon Guerrero

The St. John’s Knights are finally going back to the IIAAG Boys Basketball Championship game. The Knights took down the Gadao Division top seed FD Friars 52-50 in a thriller at the FD Phoenix Center.

The Knights’ “Big 3” of Tony Hsieh, Michael Min, and Takumi Simon scored 48 of the teams 52 points to catapult St John’s to the championship game which will be against Taga division rival St Paul Warriors.

League MVP Michael Min scored 19 points to lead the Knights; Hsieh had 15 and Simon scored 14 points.

“Im super excited to get to the championship game. We worked hard for this and it will be a great game against the Warriors,” said Hsieh.

FD’s Kyle Gaitan had a game high 21 points and had a chance to put the game into overtime but his shot just inside of the free throw line hit the left side if the rim with three seconds left in regulation. Simon grabbed the rebound and dashed down the left sideline as the Knights celebrated.

This will be the Knights’ first championship appearance since 2013, a game they lost to the Okkodo Bulldogs.

Gane sequence

The Friars led after the first quarter 15-9 with FD’s Tony Quinene scoring seven first quarter points. The Friar offense went cold in the second quarter, scoring just six points. The Knights chipped away at their deficit and took the lead after Simon hit a 3-pointer and Min made a driving lay up to go up 22-21 by halftime.

The Friars took their first lead of the second half after point guard Tomas Calvo drained a three-pointer to go up 29-28. Hsieh scored six straight points a minute later, draining a 3-pointer and making an ‘and 1’ bucket to go up 36-32.

Gaitan retaliated with an ‘ and 1’ basket of his own but Mins 3-pointer at the end of the third period had the Knights ahead 39-35.

With 5:08 left in regulation, DeAundre Cruz and Gaitan bring the Friars back into the contest with points in the paint to tie the game at 42-42. Both teams play superb defense with the Knights’ Isaac Sim and FD’s Matthew Fegurgur recording blocks. The Knights cling to a 47-46 lead after Simon made a driving lay-up.

The Friar offense had open looks but we’re unable convert. The Friars fouled Hsieh twice on defense with under two minutes left and he went 4-4 from the line as the Knights were suddenly ahead 51-46.

The Friars comeback with Calvo making two free throws and Gaitan going coast-to-coast to cut the lead to 51-50 with 19 seconds remaining. The Friars are forced to foul Min who goes 1-2 from the charity stripe. The Friars get the last shot but Gaitan’s runner missed to the left. Game over, season over for the Friars.

“We lost to this team twice and we wanted to make sure we did a better job on rebounding because they are a big team and I think we did well tonight,” said Simon.

Simon led the Knights with eight rebounds. The Friars were contained on the glass but still out-rebounded the Knights 28-22. In their regular season IIAAG contest on February 18th, the Friars won the battle of the boards 46-26.

“We are definately a different team and we’ve improved throughout the season,” said Min.

The Knights will take on the Warriors who defeated them twice this season.

“Our last game I felt we had it (the victory) but we ended up losing by one point.  Alot of lessons learned and we will be better on Friday,” said Min.

Gaitan stuffed the stat sheet once again with 21 points, nine rebounds and three steals – all game high numbers. Cruz had eight points and seven boards.

This will be the Knights’ first trip to the championship game since 2013, their last championship win was in 1995 with a team composed of Nate Denight, Darrick Bollinger, Deji Mobugunji and Richard Chou.

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