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From limbo to MPBL playoffs: How Jonas Villanueva turned things around for 1Bataan

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Tiebreaker Times From limbo to MPBL playoffs: How Jonas Villanueva turned things around for 1Bataan Basketball MPBL News  Jonas Villanueva Bataan Risers 2019-20 MPBL Lakan Cup

BALANGA — 1Bataan-Camaya Coast figured in a dog fight against General Santos-Burlington in its 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Season bout last Friday, at the Bataan People’s Center here. 

The Risers trailed by as much as 13 points in the first half, before taking the rough way out and grabbing a hard-fought 74-66 victory over the Warriors in front of a raucous home crowd.

Safe to say, though, that has been the case for Bataan all season long. They have had to deal against different issues stemming from internal and personnel matters to start the season.

And the challenges they braved in the initial part of the tournament, as per Risers head coach Jonas Villanueva, readied them for these types of situations.

“Kami kasi, towards ‘yung na-build ‘yung team na ‘to, wine-welcome namin ‘yung mga trials and challenges. Sabi ko sa kanila it’s the only way we’re gonna get better, so ‘wag tayong mag-back off sa ganung klaseng game,” Villanueva said.

Back in September, Bataan had to go through an overall revamp, from coaching to roster changes, after the team decided to terminate their agreement with Zetapro group, who veered away from its commitment to the Risers.

The development resulted in an exodus that saw head coach Jong Uichico and his staff; along with core players Anton Asistio, Jai Reyes, Alvin Pasaol, Leo Najorda, Fonzo Gotladera, Santi Santillan, and Sean Manganti leave the Camaya Coast-owned squad.

Tiebreaker Times From limbo to MPBL playoffs: How Jonas Villanueva turned things around for 1Bataan Basketball MPBL News  Jonas Villanueva Bataan Risers 2019-20 MPBL Lakan Cup

Villanueva – who had been part of then-head coaches Jojo Lastimosa and Uichico’s staff – inherited a Bataan squad who boasts a 6-6 card then and only had eight players in his arsenal.

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“It was hard kasi ‘yung morale ng team, everyone was doubting Bataan, even the management. Pero ang maganda naman sa nangyari, ‘yung management na pumalit assured everyone na it’s gonna be different. Smooth ‘yung operations lahat; everything will be provided; they will be taken care of. Maglalaro na lang,” shared Villanueva.

But the two-time PBA champion was up for the challenge. After getting several players such as Gino Jumao-As, Reed Juntilla, and Joseph Nalos — to name a few, from different transactions — Villanueva turned the impossible to reality.

Tiebreaker Times From limbo to MPBL playoffs: How Jonas Villanueva turned things around for 1Bataan Basketball MPBL News  Jonas Villanueva Bataan Risers 2019-20 MPBL Lakan Cup

“Sabi ko nga, coming from 6-6, tinry kong i-build sa kanila ‘yung camaraderie, ‘yung samahan, ‘yung team work, pagtitiwala sa isa’t isa kasi maraming doubts eh. ‘Yung morale, ‘yung character pwede talagang bumaba dahil sa nangyari, pero nag-respond sila in a good way,” said the nine-year PBA veteran, as he worked on the team’s chemistry right after taking the post.

“Kita naman, kita sa game, kita sa the way they enjoy each other’s company tapos happy sila ‘pag may nakaka-shoot. So ‘yun lang, ‘yun ‘yung binantayan ko nung una kasi ayoko sanang pumalit sa isang team na alam ko ‘yung morale is down.”

Defying the odds, Villanueva worked his magic. He turned the then-dysfunctional team into a legitimate playoff squad, leading the squad to the sixth-best league-record 19-9, good for the fourth place in the North Division.

In other games, Pasay booted out Binan Luxxe-White from the playoff race, 68-57; while Alvin Pasaol pushed Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines to fifth place of the South Division after a 75-63 win over Muntinlupa-Angelis Resort.

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Story by Jonash Dannug
Photo by Nicks Hernandez

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