The PCCL Semis have started and the first game of the semis single round robin pitted NCAA Champion San Beda against The Southern Islands Champion, Southwestern University Cobras from Cebu.
Before the game started, I spied this player, who I think is SBC Rookie Center Jun Bonsubre, parading pink socks and shoes. Really??? Pink??? Calling the fashion police....
It started out as a close game with San Beda closing out the first quarter ahead 23-19.
The SWU Cobras paraded two Cameroonian imports in Benoit Mbala (Is his name pronounced Ben-WAH as in the musician David?) and Justine Aboude.
Rookie Center Mbala started the game and immediately made his defensive presence felt.
His leadership qualities and high leaping ability was very evident and it was a pity that in the first three quarters his offense wasn't consistent and he couldn't find the range outside. In he fourth quarter though, he was able to get closer to the basket and finished the game with impressive numbers (27 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocked shots).
Aboude (12) likewise provided decent support with 8 points and 2 rebounds in 12 minutes of play.
Also of note was Forward Bonifacio Guillena who blocked this shot of Red Lion Baser Amer. Aerial show indeed...
Not to take anything away from Amer, this shifty point guard, as expected, had 15 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists in a great all around game.
Jake Pascual top billed for SBC with 17 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Ryusel Koga and Anjo Caram had 12 and 9 points respectively.
The game stayed close with more than 3 minutes left to play in the second quarter when San Beda caught the Cobras flat footed and went on a scoring spree. They ended the first half ahead at 46-29.
It looked like the Red Lions would be in for a runaway victory when they took a 21 point lead in the 3rd canto and still maintained a 17 point lead to start the 4th. The SWU players suddenly came alive to mount a rally led by Mbala and SWU Guard (5) Arong Monbert (13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals).
With less than a minute to go, Arong grabbed a loose ball on the San Beda side and drove for a coast-to-coast uncontested lay up that brought the Cobras to within one.
San Beda couldn't buy a basket despite repeated attempts to score and with 7 seconds left in the game The Cobras found themselves with the ball in their possession looking for the winning shot. Sadly, they never got to attempt a shot and time expired with the ball in the hands of Arong. To be fair, Mbala passed off too late as he was looking to drive but was blocked from the basket and Arong recieved the ball too late and unaware of the time left.
There was an incident at the end of the game when the SWU coach knocked a player on the head for the mis-cue which got a few fans reacting. I understand that such practice is acceptable in the South and may be the equivalent of a lengthy scolding.
I'd say that the SWU players are a very close bunch as Aboude immediately approached and consoled Mbala after the gripping loss to San Beda. Friendships definitely will last longer than our memories of lost games.
This game has to be put into perspective and it shows us that the south is definitely rising. Gone are the days when Metro Manila teams would beat them by 20 something points on a regular basis. Teams from the South have had to endure loosing players to the Manila Leagues (James Yap, Greg Slaughter, Nonoy Baclao, Mac Tallo, and JP Erram to name a few). It may have taken time but they are getting better.
I was also surprised to learn that quite a number of imports are playing in Southern Universities. This may be a double edged sword. On the one hand, some foreign players who come over may have a skill set that locals can learn from but at the college level this is pretty much unlikely. On the other, this may eventually limit the time local players spend on the court and thus retard their development. Time will tell.
I end this with a last photo of Monbert Arong's acrobatic over-under shot against Baser Amer who flew by (just like that scene in Top Gun where Maverick (Tom Cruise) pulls the air brakes at the last minute and the Russian pilot unexpecting the move shoots by him giving him a clear shot).
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