Freeman Cebu Sports

Cebu’s Team Khalifa crowned NBTC Visayas regional champ

Emmanuel B. Villaruel - The Freeman
Cebu�s Team Khalifa crowned NBTC Visayas regional champ
The members of Cebu’s Team Khalifa whoop it up after emerging as champion of the 2024 Smart-NBTC Visayas Regional Finals presented by SM Supermalls over the weekend at the Bacolod Tay Tung High School in the City of Smiles.
NBTC Photo

CEBU, Philippines — Cebu’s Team Khalifa punctuated their perfect campaign with a rousing 62-57 victory over St. Roberts International College (SRIC)-Elite Lab of Iloilo to emerge as champion of the 2024 Smart-National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) Visayas Regional Finals presented by SM Supermalls over the weekend at the Bacolod Tay Tung High School in the City of Smiles.

“We are overjoyed that all our sacrifices have paid off. In order for the players to practice together, they usually have to wake up at 3 a.m. just to be on time. They also have to cram for their studies. We are thankful to God that we won the Regionals,” said Khalifa team manager Atty. Francis T. Tolibas.

“Our collective sense of hunger and urgency carried us to success. The coaches and staff wanted to prepare the boys in the shortest time and the players wanted to win. We all wanted to give our best shot,” Tolibas added.

Team Khalifa, composed mostly of players from the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) Baby Jaguars with reinforcements from the University of the Visayas (UV) Baby Lancers, University of Southern Philippines Foundation (USPF) Panthers, Cebu Eastern College (CEC) Dragons, and Indiana Aerospace University (IAU), battled back from a double-digit deficit in the early goings to turn the tables on the Ilonggo cagers in the end.

An explosive second-quarter rally fueled by USPF’s Peter John Peteros, the league’s Most Outstanding Player (MOP), catapulted Team Khalifa to a 32-29 edge at the break.

John Nethan de la Torre of UV then joined the scoring binge as Team Khalifa stretched its lead to nine, 53-44, going into the final period.

SRIC staged a daring counter-attack to pull within just a hairline, 52-53, in the last five minutes but USJ-R’s Jan Vince Oringo instigated a blistering 9-1 rally in the crucial stretch to practically seal the deal for Team Khalifa with an insurmountable 62-53 advantage in the dying seconds.

For topping the Cebu qualifying tournament with ANS Sports as NBTC’s program partner and eventually grabbing the regional crown, Team Khalifa punched a ticket to the 2024 Smart-NBTC National Finals slated on March 18-24 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Under the guidance of head coach Melo Banua, the other members of the 15-man Team Khalifa are USJ-R’s Chan Bennedict Brigoli, Judd Kyle Rueda, Clark Frederick Candia, J Lord Pepito, Jhon Orly Amancio, Jeiel Abella, Alcher Obra, Zac Gabriel Negado, and King Padoga, CEC’s John Lloyd Mejares, UV’s Kenneth Calvin Cole and Roderick Cambarijan Jr., and IAU’s Joshua Himang.

“We are so grateful to get this championship in Bacolod. We will work hard to compete and do well in the national finals,” said Team Khalifa skills trainer Jeff Codera, a longtime member of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors training camp.

As they embark on a tougher challenge, Tolibas said the players and staff can look forward to more support as well as assistance to the players as they make up for the academic requirements they might miss during the Nationals.

“We want to represent Cebu and the Visayas well at the Nationals,” said Tolibas. “Team Khalifa is grateful to the USJ-R and UNO-R community for their support. The team is also thankful to the management, athletic directors and coaching staff of UV, USPF, CEC, and IAU for graciously allowing their players to see action alongside the other Khalifans. We appreciate everyone who supports our team.” — (FREEMAN)

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