Davao, San Juan, gear up for possible MPBL Finals rematch

Billy “The Ilonggo Superman” Robles attempts a layup against San Juan’s defense (MPBL Photo)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

With the MPBL finals nearing, the Davao Occidental Tigers and the San Juan Knights are looking to dispatch their respective opponents in a possible rematch for the title.

Both are facing do-or-die games where Davao will be looking to close out the tough and pesky Basilan Steel Jumbo Plastic and San Juan will try to finish the series against the veteran Makati Super Crunch.

However, the MPBL games as of the moment are suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the four teams are already mapping out the perfect executions to try and reach the finals.

The Makati squad led by PBA veteran Rudy Lingganay has shown the entire MPBL community that San Juan can be taken down.

Pulling-off an impressive 91-88 win against the reigning champions, Lingganay together with Jhong Baloria, Jeckster Apinan, and Joseph Sedurifa formed a formidable lineup inside the court that looked to be unstoppable offensively, and can easily switch things up defensively.

With the adjustments they made against San Juan, can John Wilson and Mike Ayonayon answer the challenge and lead their team to two consecutive titles?

For Davao, they were tested early on after their best player, Mark Yee, partially tore his ACL, playing every game in pain.

However, despite being injured, the MVP candidate still posted his usual numbers, contributing a steady double-double tally in their semifinal clash against Basilan.

Davao veterans Yee, Bonbon Custodio, Chester Saldua, and James Forrester showed that they can match-up with the young and emerging Allyn Bulanadi, Irven Palencia, Jerald Bautista, and Jay Collado of the tough Basilan squad.

Struggling in both games, Davao had problems dealing with Basilan’s speed and three-point shooting, with Bulanadi working his magic by slicing and dicing Davao’s interior defense.

But Davao showed why they were the more veteran squad.

With hopes of countering Basilan’s run-and-gun system, Davao turned to the ever-reliable Custodio to run the show, and he did not let his team down.

Davao slowed the pace down by dumping the ball to Custodio, first letting him work in the post and later on allowing him to dance in isolation situations.

The calm pace Davao played dragged the game down, extinguishing the fiery Basilan team to run their sets and let them settle for half-court offense, the ones they are uncomfortable with.

As of the moment, the MPBL management still has not released the final schedule for both south and north division conference finals, and both teams are still preparing for the crucial knock out games.