LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – No three-peat.
The National Capital Region ended CALABARZON’s quest for a third championship as they bagged this year’s Palarong Pambansa secondary boys basketball title at the Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center Gym here.
NCR snatched CALABARZON’s gold with a final score of 96-77.
CALABARZON started strong controlling the game for most of the first half.
A series of shots from Francis Abrarcar and Ranbil Tongco built a four-point lead at the end of the first quarter, 26-22 but CALABARZON eventually ended the second quarter with three-points more than NCR, 45-42.
That was until NCR’s JJ Alejandro started working.
Alejandro dropped a three-point bomb towards the last two minutes of the third quarter that led to an 11-point drought for CALABARZON.
The rest of the team followed through until CALABARZON was stuck in a hole of 13 points during the last two minutes of the game. CALABARZON tried hard to catch up but it was too late.
NCR Head Coach Ricky Reyes affirmed his team’s efforts.
“All of the teams here are the best from all the regions. Now, we can prove that we are better than them,” he said.
Reyes noted that planning was crucial to their victory. “Before the start of this game, we had three stages of plans – get to the quarters, win in the semis and win the finals. We stick to our game plan and we execute really well. This win is really for the boys,” he said.
CALABARZON Head Coach Noli Mejos also stated his disappointment in their unsuccessful three-peat attempt but accepted their defeat with pride.
“Ganun talaga nangyayari sa game. Siguro mas prepared sila sa amin. Pero siguro next year, mas maganda yung laban kasi mga bata pa itong dala ko hindi katulad nang sa NCR na halos NCAA and UAAP na. Talo kami sa tao (That's what happens in a game. Perhaps they were more prepared than we were but maybe next year, the fight will be better. This team I brought is young, unlike NCR's team that have practically UAAP and NCAA players. We're at a disadvantage),” Mejos said.
Mejos said that the CALABARZON team is still a team to watch next year since they will be largely intact.
Reyes, on the other hand, admitted that most of his players will be gone next year.
“Definitely, next year we’ll have a new team. Most likely we’ll have some carry-overs. But definitely we’ll be giving them a good fight next year,” he said.
National Junior’s Basketball Team Captain JJ Alejandro was awarded Most Valuable Player and one of the Mythical Five in the Tournament. He scored the most baskets, finishing with 35 points.
He credited his teammates for the victory.
“Credit yun kanila coach and sa mga teammates ko kasi sabay sabay kaming nagtiyaga para dito. Marami kaming na-sacrifice. Yung teammates ko yung naging key para manalo kami sa championship. Walang mangyayari kung isa lang gagawa (I give credit to out coaches and my teammates because we all worked hard to get here. We all made sacrifices. My teammates were key in us winning the championships. Nothing will happen if you do it on your own),” Alejandro said.
When asked for his plans, Alejandro said, “National team muna. Tsaka na yung UAAP (National team first, UAAP later).”
The other awardees of the Mythical Five were Enjerico Diego (NCR), Adven Jess Deputado (CALABARZON), Francis Abarcar (CALABARZON), and P. Tumayan (Western Visayas).
Western Visayas deafeated Davao to win third, after having been eliminated by NCR Friday, May 11.
Meanwhile, in elementary boys, NCR defended their crown also from CALABARZON.
The Big City cagers demolished their rivals, 97-90 in the elementary division basketball final also held at the NRSCC gym.
The defending champion quickly established a lead in the first quarter, 33-17. They widened the lead to a 15-point margin at halftime.
CALABARZON fought hard to stay in the game but was still overpowered at the end of the 3rd period, trailing behind, 72-61. They clawed their way back in the 4th however, closing in on NCR, 77-74.
But it just wasn't enough as NCR pulled away in the final minutes of the game ultimately finishing on top.
NCR coach Andrew Mavrides was elated with the win, commending his players for the team effort. “Lahat ng pinapasok ko, nagcocontribute (Everyone who played, contributed).”
Top scorer Luigi Velasco of NCR admitted it was a hard-fought win.
“CALABARZON didn't make it easy for us, you know, [they] reminded us that it can't always be NCR. We had to fight," he said.
The bulk of the team is graduating from Lourdes School of Mandaluyong this year, leaving Palaro’s elementary division with a memorable win.
In an earlier game, Western Visayas nabbed the bronze from Zamboanga with a score of 55-42. – With reports from Loj Guinmapang and David Lozada
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