IPIL, ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY — The Pagadian Explorers take pride in their homegrown players, fielding in 16 out of their 22-man roster in the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup Mindanao Leg.
And why wouldn’t they be? Them Pagadianons can play ball. They proved it on Thursday afternoon.
In their 82-80 overtime victory over Roxas Vanguards at the Provincial Gymnasium here, Explorers head coach Harold Sta. Cruz had 10 homegrown cagers and five “imports”.
The biggest shot of the game — which gave Pagadian the win — was from Von Lloyd Dechos, a homegrown player.
Dechos drilled a triple in the right corner with 25.6 seconds remaining, putting the nail in the coffin for Roxas.
For the Pagadian tactician, he breathed a sigh of relief that all the hard work in training, especially for the homegrowns, bore fruit.
“From the beginning noong sinabi sa akin na kalimitan ng team ko homegrown, nag-stick ako doon. Ang laking challenge sa akin,” Sta. Cruz shared.
“‘Yung pagtuturo ko nagbunga, natuto talaga sila even though alam kong malalakas ang kalaban namin kasi ang daming pros.”
The Explorers coach also challenged his squad to make this league the barometer if they can keep up with the veterans.
So far, so good — the 10 homegrown players combined for a fair share of their 82 points with 44.
Dechos and Rich Guinitaran led the Pagadianons with 10 points apiece.
The Explorers were already prepared for the physicality of Roxas, thanks to their tune-up game against the stacked Basilan squad last July 1.
Aside from that, Sta. Cruz makes it a point that his team leaves it all on the defensive side of the game.
“Ako kasi, defensive coach ako. Nagagalit ako kapag hindi sila bumababa sa defense, kasi sabi ko nga sa kanila magpapanalo sa atin depensa.”
The defensive tenacity of Pagadian was also on display the whole game, forcing its foe to commit 16 turnovers. The game was also won via a defensive stop that left Vanguard Chito Jaime missing his supposed buzzer-beater in extra period.