Mindanao-based teams Basilan and Davao Occidental pulled off contrasting wins on opening night of the MPBL Season 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena late Wednesday night.
The Basilan Steel went through some anxious moments before ripping the Bicol Volcanoes, 94-83, to make a good impression as one of the top tier teams in the 31-team cast put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao, with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.
Former Quezon City Capitals teammates Jay Collado and Hesed Gabo conspired in the endgame, combining for 12 of the team’s 25 points in the fourth period as the Jumbo Plastic-backed Steel made it to the win column this early.
Collado finished with 16 points, while Gabo tallied 13 as the two new recruits guided the new look Steel squad to victory.
Gabo, a cerebral guard, played heavy minutes in the absence of Fil-Am guard Jonathan Uyloan, who suffered an ankle injury right before their first game.
“Hindi rin kami masyadong nahirapan in terms of adjustment sa system ni Coach (Jerson Cabiltes) kasi magkakasama na rin kami sa ibang liga,” added Gabo. “Siguro kung may adjustments man, sa ibang teammates namin, pero nakikinig naman sila sa amin kaya hindi mahirap 'yung chemistry.”
Joining Basilan in the win column was Davao Occidental, last season’s runner-up to San Juan.
The Tigers also drew solid contributions from their new recruits in pulling off a tense 84-82 win over the formidable Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines.
Old reliable Billy Robles knocked in four of his team’s last six points on his way to finishing 14 markers, but it was the key contributions made by their new players which somehow kept the Tigers at bay.
Former Muntinlupa Cager Chester Saldua finished with 15 points and seven rebounds while Marco Balagtas, recruited from the Rizal Golden Coolers, added 12. Another transferee, Yvan Ludovice from the Bataan Risers, chipped in 11 while ex-Navotas Clutch Richard Albo produced eight.