by Frank Leo Aniscal
Big Ortigas Hardware successfully defended their throne and took home their fourth championship trophy in the Silangan Basketball Champions League (SBCL) after beating GRMJ in a grueling Lite Division Finals rematch, 98-95, inside the crowded Kingslanding Basketball Gym in Marikina City.
Even without some of their main gunners, Big Ortigas Hardware proved how strong the depth of their bench was and how effective their team play worked as they survived a game that went close down to wire.
Missing Mel Mabigat and Roy Cayanan in this exciting clash, other men stepped up to fill their numbers as Big Ortigas Hardware had five players finishing in double figures. Mark Lagrimas, who was proclaimed the Finals MVP and also recognized as Mythical Team member, delivered a double-double performance with 16 points and 14 rebounds, and added two blocks and an assist. James Abugan and Popoy Banzali ended with 15 markers each, while Toto Mangaran and TJ Santos had 13 and 11 points respectively.
GRMJ opened the match with a flashing offense, but Big Ortigas immediately regrouped and used their size advantage inside the paint by going to their big men, Lagrimas, Mangaran, and Abugan, as they rallied a 12-0 spurt, 14-6. Big Ortigas then answered each basket of GRMJ as they held a five-point lead at the end of the first quarter, 22-17.
The second period became an astounding display of offense from both teams as Big Ortigas’ Yaki Tarucan, Ryan Riplada and Mangaran exchanged hard-earned baskets with GRMJ’s Warren Dy, Jason Cristi, and Jerwin Cristi. However, Big Ortigas kept the advantage at halftime, 48-44.
A different GRMJ played in the third frame as they gained momentum after starting off with a solid defense, led by Dy, Jojo Romero and Alvin Mateo. They were able to steal the lead in the 3:19 mark, 66-59, but Big Ortigas answered back with their own 11-2 run, 70-68. Finishing the third on a high note, GRMJ carried a slight of confidence as Norvin Cuerpo and Tobi Pangilinan gave them a two-point edge, 72-70, heading into the fourth quarter.
Jason Cristi and Ivanne Fernandez’ three-pointers boosted GRMJ’s fourth quarter attack as they increased the margin to nine points, which was the biggest lead of the match, 82-73. But knowing Big Ortigas Hardware, they will not allow to lose their composure, especially in when the game became a close battle, showing the true heart of a champion by trimming the lead gradually until they found themselves taking the advantage in the 2:45 mark, 91-89. Dy refused to waste his effort as he lifted GRMJ by drilling back-to-back baskets, 93-91, but an and-one play and split charities of Lagrimas, and TJ Santos’ crucial jumper put Big Ortigas on top by two possessions with only 16 seconds left, 97-93. Dy remained defiant until the end as he made a putback basket, unfortunately his team fell short from winning the championship.
Making another monstrous effort for GRMJ, Dy was absolutely on a mission going into this game as he put up a 22-point, 19-rebound double-double performance, along with three blocks, two assists amd two steals. Jerwin Cristi got 14 markers, while Mateo amd Fernandez had nine apiece.