Pasig Pirates treat home fans to MPBL “preview”

Shaquille O’Neal goes wild in mosh pit at Tomorrowland

The roar from a familiar venue will once again be heard in a month’s time. For this typical Wednesday night, the Pasig Pirates gave a sneak peek of the excitement that would soon hit this side of town.

The honking horns of cars, jeepneys and tricycles normally reverberated around the Caruncho Avenue loop.

But for this special night, the noise from the busy street was deafened by cheers from a modest crowd that trooped to the Pasig City Sports Center, as the Pasig Pirates hosted the Caloocan Supremos for a preseason scrimmage in preparation for the second conference of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).

A night of Pasig Pirates basketball

After a month of tryouts and preparations, the Pasig Pirates – Gameville were finally unveiled in front of their fellow Pasigueños against one of the MPBL’s inaugural teams, the Caloocan Supremos – Longrich.

The Pirates, one of the MPBL’s expansions teams, tested the waters against the John Kallos-mentored Supremos with a little over a month before they plunge in the fledgling regional basketball league.

For the home fans, it was their chance to see for the first time the new crew of Pirates that will represent the city in the MPBL. On deck for the tune-up game for the Pirates were Kojak Melegrito, Joshua Saret, Nikki Monteclaro and other successful aspirants from the city-wide tryouts held by the team’s management.

The instruction by head coach and team owner James Anton Machate to his Pirates was simple, yet meaningful: defend the home floor. Defend the lair, which for their maiden voyage in the MPBL would be the Pasig City Sports Center.

At the seat of power of Pasig City

Situated right beside the Pasig City Hall, the venue formerly known as the Caruncho Sports Complex has hosted basketball games for the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL), UNTV Cup and most recently, the PBA Developmental League.

For the upcoming MPBL conference, the Pasig City Sports Center opens it doors once again to basketball fans for the home games of the Pasig Pirates.

According to Machate, he expects the 4,000 seater-venue to be filled to capacity once the MPBL rolls into town. For the Pirates’ youthful coach and owner, the turnout from a handful of fans on Wednesday night is an indication of the enthusiasm of the Pasigueños.

“Sa tao ngayon, medyo marami yung dumating e. Nakaka-surprise na sa Facebook pa lang (yung announcement), wala pa kaming mga banners na pinaskil. Sa actual game, feeling ko mapupuno ito,” said Machate.

Building blocks of learning

The Pirates stamped their class early on in the game, implementing a full-court pressure defense that would result to easy fastbreak baskets. At the half, the Pirates led the Supremos, 48-40.

Prior to Wednesday’s preseason clash, Machate imparted to FOX Sports Philippines the style of play he envisions for the Pirates. “Medyo fun to watch. Parang babalik kayo sa pagkabata sa sistema ng team. You will see everyone play, since they are all required to run. Parang high school and college up-tempo basketball style most of the time,” quipped Machate.

But in the second half, the Supremos flexed their muscles over the Pirates behind the exploits of former Adamson University standouts Dawn Ochea and Jan Colina. Leaning on their experience and familiarity, the visiting Supremos snatched an 88-78 victory over the Pirates.

For a young, developing team like the Pirates, Machate pointed to a single culprit for the home loss and a lesson that they can all learn from. “Nahirapan na sa second half because of overconfidence. Dapat huwag maging kumpyansa masyado. Ang nakita ko kanina, kahit nalamangan kami, kumpyansa pa rin sila kasi nalamangan naming sila nung una, hahabulin na lang.”

Set to sail, almost

With a few tweaks to his final lineup, Machate bared that the Pirates are a few pieces away from completing its 17-man roster. Former PBA power forward Leo Najorda will be on his way from the province to join his first practice with the Pirates on May 7.

Likewise, Boyet Bautista and Jonathan Aldave, also former PBA players, are set to join the Pirates on their final stretch of preparation for the MPBL.

To fully bolster his squad, Machate is still on the lookout for potential big men to join the Pirates’ ship. “Medyo kumpleto na ito. Maghahanap lang talaga ako ng legitimate na big man for inside presence. Kahit hindi scorer, defender lang, masaya na ako doon,” said Machate.