MPBL boys on spotlight: Banal, Salem shine for IECO in Asia League

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THE members of the IECO Green Warriors returned home Saturday night after nearly a week seeing action in the Asia League Terrific 12 at the Studio City in Macau, China.

Although the team lost its first two games in the group stage matches, the Diocedo Sy-backed franchise was able to come up with a gallant stand against the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, the former team of Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player Andray Blatche.

Among the locals playing for the Green Warriors, it was Gab Banal and Matt Salem — two players seeing action in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League — who were among the most consistent performers.

Fresh from representing the Philippines in a 3×3 competition just recently, Banal, who plays for the Bacoor Strikers, accepted the call of duty and play for the country’s representative in this growing regional tournament.

The son of multi-titled player and coach Joel Banal averaged 12.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game for the Green Warriors.

Salem, a deadshot shooter from the Navotas Clutch, was also solid in two games. He averaged 11.5 points and five rebounds per game and emerged as the most consistent shooter for the Green Warriors team coached by Ariel Vanguardia.

Both players relished the moments of playing against some of the best teams from the Asian region.

“It’s a tough tournament. We have pro teams playing, but we love the challenge. I’m proud of being a part of  the IECO team, the Philippines’ representative in the Asia League Terrific 12,” Banal told FOX Sports Philippines in an exclusive interview. “We’re also proud to represent MPBL.”

For Salem, representing the country for the first time in an international tournament was all worth it.

“It was definitely worth it. We’re proud to represent not just the country, but also MPBL,” added Salem.

A few more MPBL players also did their share in the tournament — Jai Reyes of the Laguna Heroes-Krah and Ron Dennison and Kris Porter of the Navotas Clutch.

“Opportunities like this are hard to pass up. Basta may chance ka represent yung country maski ano pa yung dala mo, gagawin mo. Because of our games in the D-League and MPBL, mas naging kundisyon kami and ready to represent IECO in the Terrific 12,” added Reyes.

Fro Porter and Dennison, playing in an international tournament such as this one will help them in the long run.

“Malaking tulong, lalo pa may plano ako magpa-draft kaya mas lalong mapapansin tayo,” said Dennison.

Porter played his first international game against Japanese League champion Ryukyu but dished out probably his best performance as a player in recent memory.

“Yeah, it’s one of my best games and it’s special because international game eh,” added Porter, who had 12 markers in a losing effort.

Photo from Gab Banal’s Facebook

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