PAGADIAN, ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR — Monday marked the end of the road for Petra Cement-Roxas in the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup.
The Vanguards got swept by the undefeated Jumbo Plastic-Basilan in the Mindanao Leg Finals at the Pagadian City Gymnasium here to settle for a bridesmaid finish.
But there was nothing to be ashamed of.
“Wala namang nag-eexpect na makarating kami nang ganito kalayo, na umabot kami sa Finals,” said Roxas head coach Eddie Laure.
“Kung titingnan mo papel sa papel, sobrang daming teams na ang lalakas talaga ng lineup. Wala kami dapat ikahiya dahil binigay namin ang best namin hindi man kami nanalo.”
The Mindanao Leg runner-up — which took home P100,000 cash prize pledged by Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas owner Ronald Mascariñas — surely did not disappoint, and arguably even overachieved.
The Zamboanga del Norte-based squad struggled in the early goings of the tournament. It faltered in both of their first two games.
Those losses lit a spark in the Vanguards’ camp, though. And they used it as a springboard to do better.
“‘Yung dalawang unang laro na talo agad, ‘yun ang naging extra motivation namin para mag-work hard pa kami sa practice, i-solid ‘yung game plan namin,” said the first time head coach.
What an extra motivation that was. Roxas then went on a five-game winning streak before yielding to its Finals tormentor in the last day of eliminations. It finished at 5-3, good for the fourth seed.
Then Laure’s squad received a bye in the quarterfinals after MisOr, their supposed opponent, conceded all of its remaining games due to a shortage of players because of injuries.
Come semifinals first phase, they faced home team Pagadian, a seed higher than them.
But the Vanguards continued to defy the odds, sweeping the Explorers. They then advanced to the semis round two with powerhouse JPS Zamboanga City waiting for them.
In an absolute slugfest, Roxas stunned the heavyweights in the do-or-die Game Three, 83-72, to reach the Finals.
Now they’ve experienced being there in the Finals, so close to the championship. There’s no next destination but the top of the podium.
“Hindi natatapos dito ang basketball. Meron pang next conference, meron pang ibang pagkakataon na baka mas mataas pa dito ang marating namin,” said the former cager.