Hua Siong squares off with St. Robert’s in JB ABL ‘School Wars’ high school finals

Will JP Gaspillo continue his fine play against Hua Siong? (Leobert Julian A. de la Peña)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

It’s Hua Siong College of Iloilo Red Phoenix versus Saint Robert’s International Academy Panda Rockets in the grand finals again.

After years of rivalry in the Iloilo PRISAA high school basketball stage, the two established basketball programs will meet again for all the marbles in the JB Amateur Basketball League (JB ABL) Season III ‘School Wars’ grand finals.

Heading into the semifinals with a perfect record, the Red Phoenix cruised past Santa Clarita International School, 115-95, to secure the first slot in the championship round.

Hua Siong displayed its usual dominant form and just ran over Sta. Clarita in the second half of their semifinal clash.

Despite an early scare from the former PRISAA champions when they cut Hua Siong’s double-digit lead, the Red Phoenix maintained its composure and went back to their aggressiveness in going to the hole.

Hua Siong recovered after giving up its early double-digit lead and retook momentum in the final quarter when they ballooned the lead back to 20 points.

Hardworking point guard Jid Locsin earned the TUF Barbershop Player of the Game after dropping 33 big points on Sta. Clarita.

Meanwhile, in the second scheduled match of the JB ABL semifinals, the Panda Rockets escaped the resilient University of San Agustin Golden Eagles, 78-75.

It was one of the most thrilling and exciting high school varsity matchups in the entire JB ABL Season III as both squads put up tremendous performances.

St. Robert’s went off to a rousing start after their guards sank perimeter shots at will while the Golden Eagles struggled to find their shooting stroke.

The Panda Rockets extended their lead to as much as 13 points but San Agustin fought back with their all in the third quarter and trimmed the lead to single digits.

San Agustin connected on several three-pointers that kept them in the game while also displaying great help defense in the paint.

The game went into a nip-and-tuck affair in the last five minutes of the ball game after San Agustin took the lead courtesy of back-to-back treys.

St. Robert’s responded and scored every time they got back possession but disaster struck in the final 30 seconds of the game when they had a costly turnover that led to a San Agustin breakaway attempt.

However, St. Robert’s was able to challenge the layup with great defense and avoided a late-game collapse.

JP Gaspillo was then fouled and sank two clutch free throws to give St. Robert’s a three-point lead, 78-75.

San Agustin had the chance to force overtime but their final three-point attempt failed to connect and ended their JB ABL run as semifinalists.