|Posted on March 2, 2013 at 9:55 PM|
2013 MMTLBA: REDEMPTION FOR HCHS JUNIORS
By Henry L. Liao
For 20 long years, Hope Christian High School went through one losing season after another in the Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Association competitions, once dropping 22 consecutive games at one stretch (2006-09). Even when it finally reached the Finals in 2011 and 2012, it faltered each time.
Last February 28, redemption came – sweet and nice.
Before a capacity crowd at the Chiang Kai Shek College Gymnasium, Hope Christian HS exorcised the ghosts of the past by capturing its first Tiong Lian Juniors Division crown since 1993 with a hard-earned 62-55 victory over perennial powerhouse Xavier School in the deciding Game Three of the best-of-three Finals of the 43rd MMTLBA BonChon Chicken tournament.
Hardworking guard Arjan Dela Cruz was simply unstoppable, shooting 10-for-16 from the field, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc, for a career-high 29 points. He also collected 11 rebounds, three assists, four steals and one block in 37 minutes. Deservedly so, Dela Cruz earned Player of the Game honors.
Dela Cruz was ably supported by another backcourter, Mark Nuñez, who knocked in three triples (in six attempts) for a series-best 15 markers, and burly center John Apacible, who tallied only seven points but grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds and blocked three enemy missiles.
The 6-foot-4 Apacible was in double figures in rebounds in each of the three-game titular series, going 19, 13 and 15 for a 15.7 norm. He also averaged 9.0 points and 1.67 blocks during the series to capture the Tiong Lian Finals Most Valuable Player award.
Jollo Go, HCHS’s scoring leader for the season with a 13.2-point average, was a non-factor in Game Three with just five points on 2-for-13 floor shooting, including 0-for-6 from the three-point area. In the first and second games, Go had 23 and 12 points, respectively.
Meanwhile, Xavier School’s 1-2 scoring punch Kyles Lao and Jarrell Lim struggled mightily in the finale with a combined 6-for-31 (.194) field shooting.. The law of averages caught up with Lao, the tournament’s No. 1 point-producer with a 25.8 clip in 13 appearances, as he was held to a “silent” 18 points on a horrendous 5-for-20 from the field after chalking up 33 and 31 points on a combined .583 (21-for-36) floor shooting in the first two games.
Lao’s sidekick, Lim, scored a measly six points for the second time in the Finals (the first was in the series opener) on an anemic 1-for-11 floor clip. For the season, the junior guard averaged 12.7 ppg.
And for the second time in the series, the Golden Stallions dug themselves a hole too big to overcome as they trailed by as much as 18 points (44-26) midway through the third quarter before trimming the deficit to four, 55-51, at the 5:54 mark of the payoff period.
Despite Xavier School’s Finals debacle, a Golden Stallion picked up the regular Tiong Lian MVP award for a fifth consecutive year. This year it was the 6-foot Lao, a senior who reportedly is being wooed by Ateneo for its 2013 UAAP campaign. He follows in the footsteps of brothers Jeric Teng (2009) and Jeron Teng (an unprecedented three-time winner in 2010, 2011 and 2012).
The MMTLBA also announced the Most Outstanding Student Athlete for each of the six member schools.
They were Apacible, Lao, Pierce Chan of host St. Stephen’s High School, Karl Billan of St. Jude Catholic School and Rodney Gonzales of Grace Christian College. Gonzales topped the tournament in rebounding for the second straight season.
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