By: Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Iloilo United Royals displayed a masterful showing of resiliency and toughness as they capped off a win against northern division powerhouse team Pampanga Giant Lanterns, 76-70, despite a depleted lineup in the 2019 MPBL Lakan Cup.
Emerging point guard Cedric “Kamikaze Kid” De Joya was out due to flu and veteran leader Rhagnee Sinco was also out due to an injury he suffered during their practice.
Pampanga came in hot from the field, torching Iloilo behind Dexter Maiquez’s offensive display, bullying whoever he meets in the paint and knocking down treys, capitalizing on Iloilo’s poor defensive coverage.
The shifty point guard from Pampanga, Mark Cruz, seemed to have his way easily against the Iloilo backcourt, setting up the plays he wants and dropping dimes to Maiquez and Travis Thompson.
Sensing urgency and in need of a boost, coach Eric Gonzales sent in Ilonggo Aaron Jeruta and veteran enforcer Eric Rodriguez early in the first quarter, and they delivered.
Jeruta steadily called the shots on the floor and set-up their schemes while Rodriguez blitzed to a 5-0 spurt of his own, off two shots from the charity stripe and a long-range bomb.
The Lanterns’ 11-2 lead to start the first quarter was erased as soon as the two veterans of Iloilo checked into the game, equalizing the score at 18.
Iloilo then found their stride as the second quarter started, executing their offense well and with much better communication on the defensive end allowed them to grab the lead.
Iloilo led for the most part heading into the 4th quarter but Pampanga found a way to climb back and tie the game at 64 with 3 minutes left in the ball game.
Designated shooter Al Francis Tamsi came to the Royals’ rescue after burying a shot from deep that broke the deadlock to buoy his team to the win.
Tamsi knocked down four shots from the three-point line and scored 18 big points, garnering best player of the game honors.
Jeruta then sealed the game, nailing three out of four shots from the free-throw line.
Iloilo- Tamsi 18, Jeruta 13, Rodriguez 9, Publico 7, Parker 7, Arambulo 5, Escoto 5, Mahari 5
Pampanga- Maiquez 17, Juico 13, Cervantes 12, Apreku 8, Thompson 7, Cruz 6, Hernandez 5