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2021 in Review: Basilan redefines regional basketball

Basilan-Jumbo Plastic did not have the best of starts in 2021.

But as the saying goes, it’s how you finish that’s important – and that they did spectacularly by dominating the south, the north, and, eventually, the metro.

Back in March, the Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Lakan Cup playoffs resumed after a year of stoppage due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The then-called Steel were knotted with Davao Occidental at one game apiece in the best-of-three Southern Finals when the league was halted in March 2020.

But when the two squads were about to battle for the Finals spot in the do-or-die Game Three, it was announced that two people from the Basilan delegation yielded positive results for Covid-19, causing the league to postpone their match for a week.

The top brass of the MPBL sent an ultimatum that the Steel must yield negative results in order for them to play in the rubber match.

However, after a week of isolation, there were four who yielded positive tests, forcing the league to forfeit Basilan and let the Tigers advance to the Finals via default.

The forfeiture was not taken lightly by the Steel camp which caused the squad to move on and transfer to the newly-founded Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup.

Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup

2021-Chooks-VisMin-Southern-Finals-G3-Mandaue-vs-Basilan-basilan-champion-1 2021 in Review: Basilan redefines regional basketball Bandwagon Wire Basketball MPBL VisMin Super Cup  - philippine sports newsThe Jerson Cabiltes-mentored Basilan changed its monicker to Peace Riders heading into their new league, while also adding reinforcements.

They signed Michael Juico, Chris Bitoon, Michael Mabulac, and Jong Baloria among others to beef up their team heading into the Mindanao Leg of the South-based regional pro league in July.

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And it was a campaign to remember with multiple records set, most have to do with their offensive prowess leading to a spotless 13-0 record en route to the championship after sweeping Visayas Leg titlist KCS-Mandaue in the Southern Finals at the Pagadian City Gymnasium in Zamboanga del Sur.

Hesed Gabo took home the Season MVP award, Bitoon bagged the Mindanao Leg Finals MVP, while Jay Collado and Mabulac were co-MVPs in the Southern Finals.

With the sour taste of what happened in the MPBL finally out of their system back in August, Basilan wanted to capitalize with the momentum it has, entering another league that was built during the pandemic – Filbasket.


2021-Filbasket-Subic-AICC-Manila-vs-San-Juan- 2021 in Review: Basilan redefines regional basketball Bandwagon Wire Basketball MPBL VisMin Super Cup  - philippine sports news

Angela Davocol/Filbasket

Despite not playing under Basilan’s name, the same squad – with a few tweaks – played under the banner of AICC Manila in the Filbasket Subic Championship last October.

But it was not as easy as the previous league they played in.

Still steered by Cabiltes, AICC finished the elimination round as the top seed behind an 8-2 win-loss card.

They went on to ransack Batangas City and Pasig in the first two rounds of the playoffs to enter the Finals anew, meeting fellow powerhouse San Juan.

The Knights drew first blood and pushed AICC to the limit, but Cabiltes’ team rallied and turned back San Juan in Games Two and Three to annex their second championship in as many leagues last November.

With two titles under their belt, they did not stop there.

Chooks-to-Go MPBL Invitational

2021-Chooks-MPBL-Basilan-vs-Nueva-Ecija-Rice-Vanguards-scaled 2021 in Review: Basilan redefines regional basketball Bandwagon Wire Basketball MPBL VisMin Super Cup  - philippine sports newsEight months after their infamous split with the MPBL, Cabiltes and his two-time champion squad made their way back to the country’s fastest-growing regional basketball league – which turned pro before the Invitational tournament this December.

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Also returning were Basilan as the team’s home province and Jumbo Plastic as their sponsor alongside Medical Depot.

And what better way to end the year but with a championship from their reunion with MPBL at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Basilan swept its way to the Invitational crown and the P2,000,000 cash prize from Chooks-to-Go.

It was a dramatic year for Basilan that was punctuated in the most dramatic of ways.

In the one-game final, Basilan and Nueva Ecija were tied at 80 with 1.9 seconds to go in overtime with the former off a timeout.

However, Cabiltes’ designed play was cut off but luckily off the broken play, Philip Manalang found himself wide open at the top of the key for the championship-clinching three-pointer.

And with that shot, Basilan has reigned supreme in the South, the North, and the Metro in just five months.

Basilan has gone full circle and now at the top of the basketball world.

Written By

Just a kid from Cavite trying to make a difference.

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