Showdown of top seeds
DESERVEDLY so, it’s the top two seeds that will face each other in the best-of-three Finals of the 18-under Boys Juniors basketball competitions in the 5th Philippine Ching Yuen Athletic Association.
Unblemished No. 1 seed Saint Jude Catholic School and No. 2 seed Jubilee Christian Academy made short work of their respective semifinal opponents to arrange a best-of-three titular showdown at the Uno High School gym in Tondo, Manila.
Saint Jude, which owns an immaculate 9-0 record in the eight-school tournament, crushed fourth-seeded Pace Academy, 68-36, to reach the Finals for the fifth year in a row. Mallechi Colby Lim topped the Judenites with 20 points.
Jubilee, which totes an 8-1 card, defeated third-seeded Saint Stephen’s High School, 71-63, to advance to the championship round for the second time in four seasons. Carlo Lim paced the host school with 31 points (including 19 in the second half as the Jubileeans started their comeback late in the third quarter) and six rebounds.
Game One of this year’s Finals will be held on Saturday, February 17 (12 noon). The second game will be on Thursday, February 22 (7 p.m.). If necessary, Game Three will be played on Sunday, February 25 (1 p.m.).
During their elimination-round meeting last February 1, the Judenites pulverized the Jubileeans, 69-52, with three players tallying in double digits in Mallechi Colby Lim (18), Adrian Pe (13) and Lance Chan (10). Carlo Lim paced Jubilee with 27 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Saint Jude Catholic School and Jubilee Christian Academy had squared off in the 2015 Finals with the Judenites emerging victorious with a 2-0 sweep (65-59 and 77-48).
Two Judenites from the 2015 championship squad are still on the current SJCS roster. These are oldhands Matthew Aaron Ang, a heady playmaker, and Lance Graeham Chan, a frontliner with outstanding three-point shooting skills. This season, the two have embraced the role of torchbearers and provided veteran leadership to youngsters like sharpshooting Mallechi Colby Lim, rim protector Adrian Pe, rebounding demon Charles Sy and three-point artists in brothers Joao and Josiah Filipino.
The strength of Judenites head coach Japs Cuan’s troops comes in their deep bench and share-the-wealth offense. In their 9-0 march, Cuan often has been able to employ all his 15 players with nearly equal efficiency. SJCS has “been there, done that” with title series appearances in each of the last five seasons. The Judenites’ Finals experience could be the X-factor.
On the JCA side, there also are a pair of players from the 2015 runner-up team that are back in this year’s Finals – frontliner Andrei Yu and Justin Yulangco. That year’s squad was headed by Paolo Lim (who topped the team in both Finals games with 22 and 17 points).
Now it’s the turn of Paolo’s younger brother, Carlo, who is now Jubilee’s meal ticket. Stopping Carlo, the tournament’s scoring leader, won’t be easy. Somehow the energetic
6-foot wingman has the ability to puncture the hoops with his dazzling and creative moves inside and outstanding perimeter shooting when red-hot.
If Batman has Robin, then Carlo will also have to have the scoring support of Kyle Barraza, his old sidekick back from their 2014 Aspirants Division days (then for 13 years).
The dynamic duo can’t do it alone.
The shocktroopers of Jubilee bench tactician Cris Bautista have to step up. The likes of Miko Lim, Roland Roldan and Janaro Bautista, all of whom are capable of making shots from the paint and beyond the arc; Julian Evangelista and Zachary Amin, muscle-bound hard workers off the offensive glass; and centers Andrei Yu and beanpole Kyle Ong, who, though raw, can create some havoc with his tree-like frame.
It’s the Finals. It’s for all the marbles.
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