By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
What a Cinderella story it has been for the City Proper Stalwarts.
Facing a tough play-in elimination week to grind their way to the grand finals, City Proper showed enough gas left in the tank to upset the undefeated Jaro Titans, 95-88, during the championship game of the JB Amateur Basketball League (JB ABL) Battle of the Seven Districts Conference last October 22, 2023, held at the Western Institute of Technology (WIT) extension campus basketball gym.
The underdogs gave their all and banked on their newfound team chemistry to end Jaro’s reign in the competition, showing grit and the will to win in the grueling championship game.
Before kicking off their championship campaign, the Stalwarts had to get out of the crowded maze after playing two games in the play-in stage.
City Proper first took care of the Mandurriao Warriors in their semifinal matchup and followed it up with a gut-wrenching win over the Molo Spartans to secure their place in the championship stage.
The Titans already got the better of the Stalwarts as both teams dueled in the opening game day of the tournament with Jaro crushing City Proper with a double-digit lead.
Aiming to bounce back and get their revenge, the feisty Stalwarts opened the first half with a surprising scoring avalanche that shocked Jaro.
For the first time in their JB ABL Battle of the Seven Districts stint, Jaro trailed by double-digits at the half as City Proper got valuable contributions from their role players to notch the advantage.
However, the Titans got off to a rousing start in the third quarter led by the hot-shooting of superstar Kevin Barranco who finally found his stroke from the three-point range.
Just when Jaro thought they could sustain their firepower and full-court defensive tenacity, the Stalwarts just got too many answers and sank timely buckets to fend off the mini-offensive runs by the Titans.
The WIT gym then exploded in the final 10 minutes of action as Jaro was able to complete the comeback and retook a one-point lead twice but the Stalwarts came right back and quickly countered with their own basket.
Big baskets from Kimrey Servano, Gianne Nahine, Yohan Posa, JM Zolayvar, and Rhemark Escarilla kept City Proper in the driver’s seat when Jaro attempted to blitz their way into the game.
In the last three minutes of the ball game, Zolayvar completed a three-point play to extend City Proper’s lead to seven, 90-83, while Escarilla put the nail in the coffin after sinking two clutch three-pointers to swing the momentum back to the Stalwarts.
Time was then not on Jaro’s side as they attempted a miracle comeback in the last minute of the ball game.
Nahine was named the ODM Best Player of the Game after tallying 20 crucial points alongside seven rebounds and four assists.
On the other hand, Barranco contributed 32 markers for the Titans but weren’t enough to maintain their perfect record.
“Salamat gd sa mga nag support sa aton nga liga. Na umpisahan sang matawhay, kag natapos man sang matawhay. Sa tanan nga mga nag bulig especially sa mga ball clubs, team managers, financers sang kada team, tani mas mag nami pa mga negosyo nyo kag buligan pa kamo sang todo todo. Next year naman! JB ABL Battle of the Seven Districts signing off!” said JB ABL commissioner Jayphet Balbacal in an exclusive interview with the Daily Guardian.