Pacquiao in Warriors lineup
Pacquiao in Warriors lineup
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson () - January 15, 2009 - 12:00am

Liga Pilipinas president Noli Eala has confirmed that Manny Pacquiao is eligible to play for the host General Santos City MP Warriors in the inaugural leg of the second conference at the Lagao Gymnasium in South Cotabato.

Eala said Pacquiao was not in the original lineup submitted by Warriors coach Ramon Pido, a former PBL cager with Hapee and MBA player with Pampanga. But he was listed in the final roster that beat the 10 a.m. deadline yesterday.

Pacquiao was expected to make his Liga debut against the Ilocos Sur Bravehearts in the main event of a twinbill in General Santos City last night.

Eala planed in from Manila to General Santos City early yesterday morning to supervise the proceedings leading to the opening rites where Pacquiao was set to deliver an inspirational message.

Also in the Warriors cast is Pacquiao’s younger brother Bobby.

“For every leg, teams are allowed to change lineups so Manny may not be in the Warriors roster for the next leg if he has to leave for the US to train for his coming fight against Ricky Hatton,” said Eala. “I don’t foresee a problem if Manny is listed in the roster now. In fact, Manny’s inclusion has made the leg more interesting because the Warriors and Ilocos Sur are contenders.”

Eala said Ilocos Sur Gov. Deogracias Victor (DV) Savellano mentioned former Gov. Luis (Chavit) Singson, one of Pacquiao’s closest friends, was scheduled to arrive by private plane to witness the Warriors game against the Bravehearts.

* * *

In the tournament format, the league’s 11 teams are hosting a leg each. Ranking points are awarded depending on a team’s finish. After the 11-leg eliminations, three teams will be scratched out, leaving eight to play in four best-of-5 quarterfinal series with the survivors advancing to figure in two best-of-5 semifinal series. The home-and-away format will be 2-2-1 in the quarterfinals and semifinals.

The semifinal winners will dispute the championship in a best-of-5 series where the team with the superior record has the choice of hosting format, 3-2 or 2-3. The conference is expected to end in April.

Eala said Liga’s first-ever conference brought in 13 teams but the cast is now down to 11, with Baguio, Tagaytay and Pagadian taking leaves of absence. General Santos City came in as an expansion club. The other active teams are defending champion Cebu Niños, Manila (formerly Batangas), Pampanga, Taguig, Laguna, Quezon, Iloilo, Misamis Oriental, Zamboanga and Ilocos Sur.

Eala said in the last conference, each leg took five days to finish with three days for eliminations, one for the semifinals and one for the finals. But this conference, it will take only four days without the semifinals. A team that sweeps the eliminations will earn three additional ranking points as an incentive.

* * *

“We’ve got three Mindanao, two Visayan and six Luzon teams this conference,” said Eala. “More and more teams are accepting the concept of playing homegrown. Cebu, for instance, is going with an all-Cebuano lineup and took out former PBA players Marlon Basco, Bruce Dacia and Ron Capati to bring in locals like Greg Slaughter.”

Eala said former San Beda star Sam Ekwe is playing for Laguna and Fil-Am Terrell Theophile for Pampanga. Another Fil-Am Joey Deas is being courted by several Liga teams. “The league is wide open,” said Eala. “We’ve got competitive balance. Manny is certainly giving Liga a boost and he’s laying out the red carpet for our opening.”

In yesterday’s doubleheader, Laguna and Zamboanga tangled in the 4 p.m. opener. Then, the Warriors faced the Bravehearts at 6 p.m. Teams switch opponents today and tomorrow then the top two finishers slug it out for the leg championship on Saturday.

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