Just a few months after ruling the south, AICC Manila, formerly Basilan in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup, came to rule the north.
AICC Manila captured the 2021 Filbasket Subic Championship after defeating San Juan-Go for Gold in the winner-take-all game three, 72-68, Monday evening at the Subic Bay Gymnasium.
Losing the first game 80-74 last Saturday, AICC Manila clawed back in the second game yesterday with a 74-70 win to force the decider.
“Actually, being down 0-1,” said AICC Manila head coach Jerson Cabiltes about the biggest challenge they had to overcome in this tournament. “Yung mga back-to-back games, pinaghandaan na namin sa practices. Yung pinaka challenge namin is yung nadown kami versus San Juan. Fortunately, for us, nakuha namin.”
Strong was the start of Manila, leading by as much as 13 points, 62-49, with six minutes left in the final frame.
But the Knights — who finished in second place during the 2019-21 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season — had one last push in them.
Rhenz Abando and Orlan Wamar sparked a huge endgame rally while Jhonard Clarito, the hero of San Juan’s MPBL Datu Cup triumph, provided the big baskets. With just four seconds left, AICC Manila’s lead was down to just two, 70-68.
Ronjay Buenafe, the biggest recruit of AICC Manila for this tournament, knocked down two clutch free throws to seal the championship for his side.
Michael Mabulac, who was the VisMin Southern MVP, led the way for AICC Manila with 18 points and eight rebounds while Chris Bitoon added 13 points, six rebounds, and two assists.
“When we lost sa San Juan, nag-viewing kami the following morning,” said Gabo, who was also the 2019 PBA D-League Second Conference Finals MVP with BRT Sumisip-St. Clare. “Coach Jerson told us na palakihan na lang ng puso ito. Yun yung naging spark namin sa Game Two. Yun talaga yung spark, yung leadership ni Coach Jerson at yung vets namin.”
“Ang pinakaimportante sa akin yung winning attitude nila. We instilled values and discipline sa kanila,” said Cabiltes, who was hailed as the Coach of the Year.
San Juan, on the other hand, was able to gain vengeance early in the playoffs, defeating Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan champion Davao Occidental in the semis.
Abando led the Knights with 17 points while Clarito added 11 points.
Both Ato Ular and Wamar had 10 points each with the former also grabbing eight rebounds. JM Calma chipped in 13 rebounds as well.
After figuring in this amateur preseason tournament, both squads will make their return to the MPBL this December 11 for the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Invitational tournament.
AICC Manila 72 – Mabulac 18, Bitoon 13, Gabo 10, Collado 9, Buenafe 8, Juico 5, Taganas 4, Balucanag 3, Uyloan 2, Manalang 0, Eguilos 0, Siruma 0, Bringas 0.
San Juan-Go for Gold 68 – Abando 17, Clarito 11, Ular 10, Wamar 10, Calma 8, Hernandez 5, Abundo 2, Rodriguez 0, Lacap 0, Bunag 0, Orbeta 0.
Quarterscores: 20-17, 36-31, 54-43, 72-68