By Jerome Lagunzad
(Muntinlupa Sports Complex)
7 p.m. – Cebu City vs Bacoor
9 p.m. – Muntinlupa vs Marikina
Burly center JayR Taganas threw his full weight around the lane as host Bulacan Kuyas gave newcomer Rizal Crusaders a rude welcome, 80-61, on Tuesday night in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Anta Datu Cup at the Baliwag Star Arena.
Taganas, an undersized center at 6-foot-3, hauled down a game-high 16 rebounds and scored 10 points on top of seven assists to help the Kuyas recover from a sluggish start and dominate the Crusaders in the second half for an auspicious tourney start.
Sniper James Martinez led the way with 18 points while hometown hero Stephen Siruma and three other teammates tallied eight points apiece for Bulacan, one of the league’s founding teams backed by Caesar Angelo Wongchuking Jr. of Mighty Sports.
“We have prepared hard for this season. We know that there’s a lot of stronger teams so we really need to improve our performance day by day. We can still get better after winning our opening match,” said Kuyas mentor Britt Reroma.
Sharing the day’s spotlight with the Kuyas were the touted Makati Skyscrapers, who defeated fellow debutant Basilan Steel, 77-65.
Former Kia gunner Philip Paniamogan scored a team-high 19 points despite a poor 7-of-21 shooting from the field while Cedric Ablaza provided the spark off the bench with 18 points and seven rebounds as the Skyscrapers wiped out an early 12-point deficit and assert the dominance expected from them over the Steel after the break.
Defense did the trick for Makati, which forced Basilan to turn the ball over 34 times, 10 of those coming from Jojo Tangkay and Hafer Mondragon, and translated them to 38 points, most of them off transition plays.
“Our strength is our youth and fitness so we want to maximize it as much as possible. As one of the smaller teams, we want to quicken up the pace to offset our height disadvantage,” said Makati coach Cholo Villanueva.