• Can Cignal duplicate NLEX feat in D-League maiden season?

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    Jude P. Roque

    During the Philippine Basketball Association’s Developmental League’s (PBA D-League) inaugural season in 2011, the NLEX Road Warriors became the first ever champion after sweeping Cebuana Lhuiller, 2-0, in the best-of-three finals.  Led by head coach Teodorico “Boyet” Fernandez, and a bunch of collegiate standouts, the MVP Group-backed Road Warriors went on to win five more D-League titles, all via a 2-0 cruise of the finals, to become the league’s winningest franchise.  This season, Fernandez hopes to lead rookie squad Cignal HD-San Beda Hawkeyes to another fruitful maiden season at the expense of the Racal Tile Masters.  The Hawkeyes are eyeing a sweep of the Tile Masters in Game 2 today, 4 PM at the San Juan Arena, after taking Game 1 last Thursday, 93-85.

    Cignal, another MVP Group-owned cage team, looked invincible in Game 1 after a strong start, erecting leads of as many as 21 points. The Hawkeyes dominated the first half to gain enough cushion against the expected gritty comeback from Racal in the final two quarters as former La Salle slotman Jason Perkins and skipper Pamboy Raymundo scored a combined 49 markers.  San Beda ace Robert Bolick added 19 points, six assists and five boards to help Cignal’s cause.  The Hawkeyes used a remarkable shooting clip from long distance, hitting 11-of-27 from beyond the arc for an impressive 41%, to keep Racal at bay.

    But Racal gave Cignal a king-size scare in the payoff period as Letran gunner Rey Nambatac unloaded eight points and La Salle playmaker Thomas Torres unleashed two treys to slice the difference to just five points with still over three minutes in the contest.  But Bolick, Raymundo, Perkins and San Beda star Davon Potts converted crucial baskets to tow the Hawkeyes to victory.

    Cignal is most dangerous when its outside guns are on-target.  Fernandez is also a master of defensive game plansthat more often than not prove to be highly valuable in the finals.  But the Tile Masters of coach Jerry Codinera are certainly no pushovers, with a deep and highly talented bench, and a great mix of youth and experience.  In Game 1, Racal ruled the boards, 53-35, with Sidney Onwubere, Kent Salado and Jackson Corpuz combining for 31 caroms.  The four-year D-League squad is most dangerous when stepping on the gas and grabbing the offensive boards.  In Game 1, the Tile Masters had 21 transition points (turnover and fast break points) and 20 second-chance points.

    For Cignal to close out the series, the Hawkeyes must stick with their system, contain Racal’s running game, and secure the defensive rebounds.  But if they let down their guard the way they did in the last 12 minutes of Game 1, they’ll find the first-time finalists Tile Masters to be tough as nails.

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    Remember the Durham Crossover Team from Canada in the recent NBTC League?  From Pasay, they travelled to Lucban, Quezon to participate in the 2nd Dreamers Under-18 Boys International Basketball Challenge held at the Batis Aramin Resort from March 24 to 28.  Durham Crossover of head coach Mike Cruz bested 14 other teams, including six from Guam, to snatch the tournament crown.  Bannered by Cruz’ son Andre’s 27 markers, Robert Ocampo’s 15 and Evyn Santiago’s 14, the Fil-Canadians downed the Father Duenas team in the finals, 115-92.  Ocampo took home MVP honors while Cruz made it to the Mythical Team.The other members are Teajaun Smith, Alvin Florido, Ben Kwakumey, Brendon Ocampo and Max Cruz. Durham swept the elimination phase before drubbing PYD Blue in the quarters, and Lucban Rookies in the semis.  So after just a solitary win in the NBTC, the Durham boys returned to North America with a championship.

    This was the second straight year the Toronto-based team flew to Manila to join the NBTC.  Last year, Cruz brought NCAA D1 prospect James Canlas, a 6’3” guard that resembles the game of former National University star Ray Parks Jr.  This time, Santiago and Matthew Daves got the most attention from local college scouts and coaches.  Both players were invited by top college teams during their stay here.  Cruz said there are more excellent Pinoy prospects in Canada, and he’s hoping to bring them here next year.

    Kudos and thanks.

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