Flashback to MMTLBA history (part 1)

By Henry Liao May 25,2020
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Flashback to MMTLBA history (part 1)

By Henry Liao May 25,2020 - 02:37 PM

In 1967, the Greater Manila Filipino-Chinese Secondary School Basketball Association was established. In February of 1970, it metamorphosed into the Metro Manila Filipino-Chinese Tiong Lian School Basketball Association.

The MMTLBA founding member schools were Chiang Kai Shek College, Uno High School, Grace Christian High School (now College), Philippine Cultural High Schhol (now College), St. Stephen’s High School, Hope Christian High School, Samantabhadra Institute and Xavier School.

The Boys Juniors (high school) basketball competitions were held annually, with the exceptions in 1973 or several months after the declaration of martial law and in 1976 when the league temporarily suspended play to give way to the formal integration of local Chinese schools into the Filipino community.

The following year (1977), when the games resumed, it became known as the Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Association (MMTLBA) or more popularly known as the Tiong Lian League.

A product of Xavier School in high school and then Ateneo De Manila University in college, Isaac Go is currently a member of the Philippine national team training pool.

In 1990, games were expanded to include the Boys’ Elementary Division, which eventually evolved into the Aspirants division (age14 and under) in 2001. Girls Juniors competitions were also held starting the 2007-08 season.

The tradition-steeped Tiong Lian league had had a rich and colorful history in Philippine basketball, lasting for 43 years.

The late Lim Eng Beng (right) won a title with Chiang Kai Shek College in 1970.

But on the night of February 28, 2013, after Hope Christian High School defeated Xavier School, 62-55, in the decisive Game Three of the 2013 MMTLBA finals behind Arjan Dela Cruz’s 29 points and 11 rebounds to end a 20-year drought, the league curtains fell – for good – due to deep-seated, contrasting views among the member schools on player recruitment.

The year before, founding member Uno High School had left the league.

There were attempts to revive the Tiong Lian league in succeeding years, but to no avail.

By the time, the multi-sports league, Philippine Ching Yuen Athletic Association (PCYAA), had already been set up for the 2013-14 season, carrying with it former MMTLBA member schools Uno High School, Saint Jude Catholic School and Grace Christian College and then St. Stephen’s High School years later.

It was good while it lasted but all good things must come to an end. The MMTLBA was no exception.

Former PBA player Sunny Co was the winningest coach in Tiong Lian history with seven titles with his alma mater Chiang Kai Shek College.

For the record, Chiang Kai Shek College had the most number of championships in the Boys Juniors Division with 15, seven of them under Blue Dragons head coach Sunny Co.

Xavier School was next with 10 titles but the Golden Stallions clustered four of them from 2008 to 2011 – a league first – and a 32-game winning streak along the way for another league mark.

St. Stephen’s High School ranked third with eight championships, the last two (2004 and 2005) behind legendary coach Goldwin Monteverde, who also mentored CKSC to the 2012 MMTLBA title and has gifted the National University Bullpups with consecutive UAAP Juniors championship hardware in the past two seasons.

Jeron Teng, who once scored 104 points in a game for Xavier School in the MMTLBA competitions, is entering his third PBA season with the Alaska Aces.

There were 19 Tiong Lian products that have made it to the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) ranks.

Xavier School, an all-boys San Juan City-based institution, has 10 of them.


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