Let the bragging begin.
After three months of high-quality basketball action featuring the best Filipino players in Saudi Arabia the TFC Kingdom Cup 2012 ended, and the Jeddah FBA Vipers towered above everyone else to become the champion in the event bankrolled by the ABS-CBN Middle East regional office.
The Vipers hammered out a 102-95 victory last Friday against Riyadh FAPS Stars in the rubber match of the best-of-three championship series at the packed Dawa court in the Second Industrial City outside of Riyadh.
The win followed the Vipers’ emphatic 97-87 Game 2 victory at their home court in Jeddah, climaxed the championship run by a gritty Jeddah team and vindicated its veteran coach Boy “4GS” Corsega who had been pilloried by his detractors after his side fell 0-3 against the Stars in this tournament.
The Vipers closed out the series 2-1 to settle the issue on who was the better team in the national finals in the competition that began with regional eliminations in the Eastern Province, central region and western region.
The determined Vipers rose to the challenge in the no-tomorrow match before a hostile crowd, coming back from eight points down going into the fourth quarter to beat the hosts for the second straight time.
Joseph Ubalde, a lanky 6-foot-4 center with the wingspan of an albatross, enjoyed another double-double of 28 points and 14 rebounds with 7 assists and 5 steals for the Vipers who also drew big games from the trio of Ron Magat, Morsy Akad and Robby David.
Magat had a surprising display and finished with 27 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals, and his defense on point guard Jose Cortez disrupted the Stars’ offensive rhythmn. John Rebulado’s defense was likewise effective on old customer and Riyadh All-Star James Smith, limiting him to well below his average at 13 points.
The high-jumping Akad scored 24 points with 6 boards and 3 assists before fouling out with still three minutes to play, while David, ever the efficient court general that he is, added 12 points, 12 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
The Vipers had been under the gun for most of the contest and took the lead only at the 1-minute mark of payoff period when Mark Aguam hit a layup to redeem himself from an earlier mistake, 88-87, after the Stars brought an eight-point lead, 78-70, into the fourth quarter.
The visitors never surrendered their advantage after that. They were up by three, 90-87, on free throws by Ubalde and Magat. Vipers manager Francis Magat then played a little bit of mind games when he unfurled a banner proclaiming his team champions during the last 34 seconds and Jeddah leading by 5 points.
Vipers, who jumped out to a 9-0 start before the game became back-and-forth with the second half ending at 51-all, protected their lead in the stretch with a 100 per cent conversion from the free-throw line.
The crowd switched sides and chanted “Jed-dah, Jed-dah” toward the end of the exciting match. Also, not a few from both teams became emotional and cried unabashedly as balloons and confetti rained down the court.
Roel Asay was again the main man of the Stars with 26 points and 6 rebounds, while Sherwin Garcia and Raymond Alcasabas each had 15.
The awards ceremony took place after the game. Point guard David was named the tournament Most Valuable Player and was in the mythical five selection along with Best Guard Ron Magat, Best Forwards Sherwin Garcia and Smith, who also won the Most Defensive Player award, and Best Center Ubalde. Corsega added the Best Coach award from this tournament to his collection.
Jeddah delegation head Edgar Mendoza was ecstatic after the match.
“Championship was really a heart-stopping game and we did not stop to meet our aim to win till the last minute of the game. After all the trials and challenges in our team, we did not give up to motivate and inspire our team to win and it was really overwhelming that finally our Jeddah FBA Vipers won this most celebrated TFC Kingdom Cup. I would like to thank TFC and all of our fans and supporters for their trust and confidence in us,” said Mendoza.
Let the bragging begin.