Hua Siong bags first-ever JB ABL ‘School Wars’ HS varsity championship

Soar high, Red Phoenix! Congratulations! (Leobert Julian A. de la Peña)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Hua Siong College of Iloilo Red Phoenix continued its high school basketball dominance after clinching the first-ever JB Amateur Basketball League (JB ABL) Season III ‘School Wars’ varsity category.

After contact sports’ inactivity for almost two years due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of San Agustin Sambag gym experienced the Iloilo PRISAA atmosphere once again as hundreds of Ilonggo basketball supporters came out to support their respective schools.

Only one could be crowned as the champion and Hua Song did it again after outlasting the Saint Robert’s International Academy of Iloilo Panda Rockets in thrilling fashion, 72-71.

The Red Phoenix not only bagged the JB ABL ‘School Wars’ high school varsity category but they also beat the Panda Rockets for the second time in a grand finals clash since the 2019 ILO PRISAA championship game.

It was a close battle in the first quarter as both schools ran their offensive sets with Hua Siong staying consistent with their interior scoring focus while the Panda Rockets used their crisp ball movement to find the open man.

The game stayed close the whole four quarters as both teams traded offensive runs but Hua Siong was able to convert consecutive open layups to establish an eight-point lead in the third.

Answering the call for the Panda Rockets was Erlance Pedrita who sank some timely baskets while involving his teammates to help them retake the lead.

The fourth quarter became an intense battle after the Panda Rockets buried a clutch three-pointer courtesy of Pedrita to give them a 71-69 lead with only 30 seconds remaining in the game.

Hua Siong’s superstar guard Thomas Pillado was then rewarded with two free throws after getting fouled on his attack but only made one shot that put some sigh of relief on St. Robert’s side.

However, Pillado came at the right time in the most perfect place and grabbed his own miss to sink the game-winning putback that put Hua Siong back in the driver’s seat.

St. Robert’s still had 9.6 seconds of winning the game but failed to sink the basket after their three-point attempt in the right corner.

Pillado was named the JB ABL ‘School Wars’ high school Most Valuable Player (MVP) after racking up 21 big points in the win.

“Dako gd nga salamat sa tanan nga participating high school basketball programs. I am honored that you warmly treated the School Wars with your all, knowing nga pila ka years nadula ang contact sports sa syudad. Rest assured, this will not be the last. Congratulations Hua Siong and St. Robert’s!” said JB ABL commissioner Jayphet Balbacal in an exclusive interview with the Daily Guardian.