By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Finally, the long wait is over.
After months of thorough planning to pull off one of the biggest basketball tournaments in Iloilo City, the JB Amateur Basketball League (JB ABL) Season III “School Wars” successfully began and was held at the Western Institute of Technology (WIT) extension campus basketball gym.
A total of 24 competing teams both in the main (active varsity) category and the alumni category graced the opening program of the JB ABL Season III.
The program started with the President of the Barangay Councilors League of the Philippines- Western Visayas Jesner Punsaran delivering his welcome remarks followed by Iloilo City Councilor Rudolph Ganzon’s formal declaration of JB ABL Season III’s tip-off.
A set of thrilling games then treated all Ilonggo basketball fans as the nostalgic rivalry between the Hua Siong Red Phoenix and the Tiong San Blue Lions in the alumni (high school) category started off the JB ABL Sunday festivity.
A throwback atmosphere immediately filled the WIT gym after Hua Siong drew first blood against Tiong San, 91-69, led by its former main gunner Rommel Vivero who turned back the hands of time on his way to 18 big points.
It was all Red Phoenix from the get-go as their size and shooting posed all sorts of problems for Tiong San.
Despite Tiong San’s shooting finally clicking in the second set, Hua Siong countered with their post plays led by their twin towers.
Alvin Tolosa’s timely shooting from the three-point territory ballooned the Red Phoenix’s lead to as much as 25 points followed by Vivero’s late offensive explosion that sent in the early exclamation point.
During the next game, the WIT Tangerine nipped the Iloilo Doctor’s College (IDC) Medics, 81-80, for the first game of the alumni (college) category.
WIT’s athletic power forward Mark Ceniza did damage early as his aggressiveness going to the cup helped the Tangerine establish an early double-digit lead.
Power guard Alvin Benecio also put on a show for the Tangerine squad after bullying his way several times to fish four foul-counted drives.
However, soon as the IDC backcourt duo of Gerry Abadiano and Jefry Espinosa got it going in the second half, the Medics surged back into the ball game and turned the match into a dogfight.
IDC had the chance to win the ball game with Espinosa draining his first shot from the charity stripe but his attempt to miss the ball for another follow-up failed as it unfortunately went in.
With only two seconds remaining in the clock, IDC lacked the time to push for another offensive attempt and fell short of a comeback win.
In the other games of the schedule, the University of the Iloilo (UI) Wildcats overwhelmed the Central Philippine University (CPU) Golden Lions in the alumni (college) category, 94-54.
A heated battle between the John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University (JBLFMU) and the University of San Agustin then took place with the Dolphins edging the Golden Eagles, 74-70, in the alumni (college) category.
The last game of the JB ABL Season III opening featured the Saint Joseph School Iloilo and the Angelicum School of Iloilo in the alumni (high school) category.
It was another nip-and-tuck affair between the Templars and the Blue Owls but SJSI’s clutch run led by Andrei Pantin’s crucial basket helped them notch their first win of the season, 77-75.
JB ABL founder and commissioner Jayphet Balbacal would like to thank the presence of the squad fire volunteer response team, Iloilo City Police Station II, Brgy. Bantud La Paz and Brgy. Burgos-Mabini La Paz.
“Successful opening. Thank God natabok sang mayo. Wala sang major injuries, majority gd safety sang tanan. I would like to thank all teams who accepted the challenge. All the JB ABL partners, sadyahun ta ni. This is all for the game that we love,” said Mr. Balbacal in an exclusive interview with the Daily Guardian.