Sinulog Cup Basketball
(The Freeman) - January 14, 2018 - 12:00am

By the time you read this, you might have missed the action at the Cebu City Sinulog Cup 2018–Basketball Invitational, a six-day tournament that brought together a team from the PBA D-League in Marinerong Pilipino and four local teams. If you followed the action at the venue, through the papers or through social media, I think you’ll agree that it was a complete package of a tournament that featured just about everything needed relaunch commercial league basketball. It wasn’t perfect, but after going on a “leave of absence” for sfourteen years, it wasn’t so bad at all, was it?

At random, here are a few things that made it successful. Note that I write this piece before the championship game is to be played between Marinerong Pilipino and Cebu Landmasters/Bogo City. I must also declare that I served as the tournament’s commissioner/tournament director. At this point, whoever wins the championship is in a way immaterial to us (with all due respect to the Landmasters and Skippers). The real winners are Cebu Basketball and its fans. It’s back and we hope it’s back for good.

Predictability? While people more or less had an idea of who who were strong and weak, nobody expected University of San Jose-Recoletos/May Abohan to stun Marinerong Pilipino 84-83, with the game-winning alley-oop by Miguel Gastador from Mark Abadia hands-down the play of the tournament. Marinerong Pilipino also had difficulty against University of Cebu/M. Lhuillier, a team that fielded a solid college team without big-time reinforcements from ex-varsity/commercial league players or ex-pros. Back-to-back CESAFI champion University of the Visayas/SG-ARQ was winless in the tournament, a first for the Lancers in a long time. We didn’t know who would make it to the finals until the last day of the elimination round. When the dust cleared, only the Landmasters stood clear above all others with a record of 4-0, and three teams were tied for second place at 2-2: Marinerong Pilipino, UC/M. Lhuillier and USJR/May Abohan. The Skippers won the tiebreaker over UC/M.Lhuillier by a solitary point, +7 against +6.

Leveling up. Action leveled up when teams decided to use the core of their college teams, but added reinforcements to provide leadership and experience. Ex-pros Roger Yap of USJR/May Abohan and Jojo Tangkay of Cebu Landmasters/Bogo (both now 40 years old) were the senior citizens of the tournament. Tangkay showed that he could still keep up with the youngsters, cracking the top ten rankings in statistical points. Enrico “Bogs” Llanto (USJR/May Abohan) also turned back the clock with an excellent game against the bigs of Marinero, reminding us of how he once played against the likes of Greg Slaughter, and how we was named CESAFI MVP twice. Ferdinand Lusdoc, a hardcourt hero in “panalay leagues,” got to show off why he’s popular in tournaments held in local towns and cities of the VISMIN through his daring drives and pull-up jumpers. In the imports department, Frederick Elombi (UC/M.Lhuillier) welcomed the arrival of Prince Orizu (Cebu Landmasters/Bogo), and has churned out impressive numbers averaging a double-double.

The arrival of Marinerong Pilipino was a most welcome development. They came on their own, shouldering their expenses with the Cebu City’s bus as the only thing the organizers needed to provide. The Skippers, who are preparing for the PBA D-League which starts on the 18th of the month, bring in the Manila brand of basketball. They’re bigger, taller, are more exposed and are very well-supported. Playing against them is always excellent exposure for the Cebu teams. And the same is true for the wards of Banal brothers Koy and Joel. Thanks to Marinerong Pilipino for making the trip to Cebu. We’re now working on a workshop for coaches to be conducted by the Banal brothers next month.

Crowd. The average attendance was at between 1,200 to 1,400 every night. If this were held in a smaller venue, it would’ve been packed already. This wasn’t bad at all, considering that games were held on weekdays, and traffic was heavy with all the Sinulog-related activities taking place. Their cheering, jeering, laughing and shouting proved that they, too, missed basketball at the highest level for Cebu.

Officiating. The tournament adopted an open approach to officiating, bringing in referees from the PBA D-League to complement the local SBP crew. We also brought in a referee from Bacolod and a Manila referee who volunteered his services. Statistics was also a standard part of the tournament where we gathered, then issued stats to teams and the media at halftime and after the game. All these were posted online and you can see these in, thanks to SIA Cebu–Sports in Action (or HAT: Hughie, Arvin and Tiny).

Scouting. What is Cebu Basketball without scouting? Franz Pumaren, Tonichi Yturri and Awoo Lacson of Adamson. Fankie Lim accompanied by PBA legend Boy Cabahug. Gilas Pilipinas/FEU assistant coach Ryan Betia, a proud product of Cebu Basketball. Enough said.

Media. A big thanks to friends in the media. The local print media was supportive, probably missing all the action as well. We had next day stories coming out all week with photos too. Sports websites and also featured the games. And social media was there through Facebook. The games were also discussed on AM radio through June Perez of DYAB, this corner’s “alarm clock.” It would’ve been great if we could’ve done livestreaming or FB live, but there’s always a next time. Did you see Rocky Alcoseba’s FB video of the alley-oop play? Check it out and you’ll thank God for Facebook.

Sponsor. Thanks to the Cebu City Sports Commission and Councilor Jerry Guardo for staging the tournament. I must admit that the first time this was brought up with us was in late 2016. When the tournament didn’t push through, I doubted if it would be staged at all. Better late than never and to go on forever.

Tara na mag Sinulog! Lest we forget, the Sinulog is all about Sr. Sto Niño, THE sponsor of all sponsors of the tournament. Without his guidance and blessing, the tournament would be nothing. Deo gratias! Viva Pit Señor!

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