The Taguig City Generals hoisted the Metro League 24-and-under men’s basketball crown after a surprising wire-to-wire victory over Kyusi@80 76-58 in their winner-take-all championship bout last Friday at the Hagonoy Sports Complex in Taguig.
Lerry John Mayo finished the title-clinching game with 20 points, 17 rebounds, and four steals as he put on a terrific display all throughout the series to bag the Most Valuable Player plum in this tournament backed by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and has Barangay 143 as presentor.
Burly center Zuharto Mamaluba and Richmond Gilbero also provided a spark off the bench as they chipped in 17 and 14 points respectively to help the Generals complete a series turnaround after absorbing an overtime 80-85 home loss in the opener of the best-of-three finals in this tourney also supported by Gerry’s Grill, Summit Water, Alcoplus, Nature’s Spring and Goodfellow.
“Sobrang hirap talaga,” said Taguig tactician Mixson Ramos after a grind-out affair with QC. “Kasi nakita mo naman ‘yung mga players ng Quezon City, talagang players sila ng mga school. ‘Yung sa’min, puro mga dito lang talaga sa Taguig, so dinadaan lang namin sa tiyaga.”
Taguig, which won the title by winning back-to-back do-or-die games including a 69-65 overtime decision in Game 2 last Jan. 21 at the UP Epsilon Chi Center in Quezon City, raced to an early lead as Mamaluba scored ten straight points inside the paint bridging the first and second frame for a 24-10 lead against Kyusi@80 which missed the services of center Adzhar Udjan in the shaded lane after getting ejected for two unsportsmanlike infractions in Game 2 and thus an automatic one-game suspension.
The Mayor Joy Belmonte-backed QC trimmed the deficit to within six at the break, 35-29, before Mayo began to heat up in the ensuing half, scoring nine points in the third quarter alone to keep Kyusi@80 at bay with a 17-point cusion, 58-41.
“Sinabi ko sa mga players na ‘mas lamang tayo kapag nagsama-sama tayo’, kaysa ‘yung puro one-on-one lang. ‘Yun lang ang naging advantage namin sa kanila,” added Ramos, who automatically took home the Best Coach award from the M-League that also has SMS Global Technologies, Inc. as official livestream and technology partner, Spalding as official ball, Team Rebel Sports as official outfitter, PLDT as official internet service provider and Manila Bulletin as media partner.
Alexander Junsay topscored for the runners up as he scattered with 17 markers and 11 rebounds while fellow starter Dexter Castillo filled the shoes left by Udjan in the middle, also producing a double-double performance with 15 points and 11 boards.
QC’s mythical team duo of Nathan Lopez and Drick Acosta struggled all game long, scoring only four points apiece while combining for a dismal three for 16 shooting from the field, adding to Kyusi@80’s woes as they only converted a combined 19 of their 71 attempts for a 26% shooting clip in the deciding final game of this 24-under tourney that also has Synergy 88, World Balance, Excellent Noodles and San Miguel Corporation as major sponsors.
At the start of the game, the league had its own tribute for NBA legend and basketball idol of many 24-under players in the tourney, Kobe Bryant, who passed away five days earlier in a tragic helicopter crash along with 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
Castillo, who had Bryant’s jersey number 24 for Kyusi@80, and John Lorence Pumaris, who wore Bryant’s team USA jersy number 10 for Taguig, figured in the game’s tip-off before both teams committed 8-second and 24-second violations one after the other in honor of the world sports icon who stunned the world with his sudden death. (Justin Mhar de Jesus)
Taguig City 76—Mayo 20, Mamaluba 17, Gilbero 14, Sampurna 8, Caballero 5, Pumaris 4, Orodio 3, Azares 3, Cambaya 2, Caduada 0, Relatado 0
Kyusi@80 58— Junsay 17, Castillo 15, Camua 9, Penaga 7, Lopez 4, Acosta 4, Sabalza 2, Salazar 0.
Quarterscores: 20-8; 35-29; 58-41; 76-58