SUBIC — Mark Yee made the most crucial championship-clinching plays, Sunday evening at the Subic Bay Gymnasium here.
The 39-year-old veteran gave Davao Occidental-Cocolife the 89-88 lead after burying a three-pointer from the left wing over the 6-foot-4 Jeff Tajonera’s outstretched arms with 13.4 ticks left in overtime.
In the ensuing play, the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Defensive Player of the Year proved to everyone that he deserved that recognition.
San Juan-Go for Gold’s Jhonard Clarito attacked the basket right off the inbound, but saw his layup swatted away by Yee. More importantly, the latter swiped it off the former’s knee to give the Tigers the possession.
Davao Occidental then ran away with the basketball to nab the 2019-2021 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan National championship with an 89-88 overtime victory over San Juan in Game Four.
The San Sebastian-Cavite product dropped his best performance in the series when it mattered the most. He tallied 19 points, 12 rebounds, three dimes, and three blocks.
“Nagbunga lahat ng paghihirap ko, kumbaga ito yung reward na ibinigay sa akin ng Panginoon.”
To cap it off, Yee was named as the Chooks-to-Go Finals Most Valuable Player with averages of 13.5 points, 10.25 rebounds, 2.75 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks in the four-game series.
But with all the recognition raining down on him, the 6-foot-3 team captain remained humble, not forgetting who made it all possible.
“Lagi kong sinasabi na itong championship at Finals MVP, biyaya ito galing sa Panginoon. Ssaka siguro ‘yung sakripisyo ko rin sa team na ito, kaya binabalik ko rin ‘yung papuri sa Kanya,” he said.
Full of humility, the Sagay, Negros Occidental native even downplayed the “payback” narrative against San Juan.
Last season, the Knights took down the Tigers in Game Five, 87-86, to take the Datu Cup title at Davao Occidental’s turf.
“Hindi naman siguro bawi.
“Sa amin, naging gutom lang kami saka naging humble kami lagi, kasi nga hindi naman talaga namin intensyon kung sino ang makalaban namin. Focus lang kami. Basta ang goal namin na kunin itong championship na ito,” said Yee.
Asked about Yee’s importance to this championship squad, Davao Occidental head coach Don Dulay was all praise.
And the Tigers mentor also felt delighted to see his leader receive his reward.
“He deserves all the praise. If you’ve been with us since day one, he’s been a leader. He’s always to be the first in practice, he works so hard. He shows everybody what it takes to be on that level,” said the 40-year-old coach.
“He deserves it. All that hard work finally paid off.”