MPBL: Bicol faces Basilan; Davao battles Zamboanga

Davao Occidental Tigers-Cocolife (photo from MPBL Facebook)

Games today (Mall of Asia Arena)
4 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies
6 p.m. – Bicol vs. Basilan
8 p.m. – Zamboanga vs Davao Occidental

DAVAO OCCIDENTAL and Zamboanga, two teams which made headway in the season just passed of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, take center stage on opening night of the third season of the fastest growing regional amateur basketball league.

The two teams square off at 8 p.m. right before the curtain raiser between Bicol, one of the newest teams in the league, and a retooled Basilan squad that is ready to make its presence felt this season.

For the Cocolife-backed Tigers, playing right away after losing a painful finals match against the San Juan Knights would be a great opportunity to show their hunger and desire to get back quickly and do the work. They’ll be parading an almost intact line up and a few more key additions that include Yvan Ludovice, Richard Albo, Marco Balagtas and Chester Saldua.

But the Family’s Brand Sardines-supported team is no pushover either.

With three holdovers from last season’s team that made it all the way to the Final Four of the southern division leading the charge, Zamboanga’s trio of Harold Arboleda, Robin Roño and Reed Juntilla will try to keep a hold of their squad.

Bicol, one of the six expansion teams joining this season, will have its baptism of fire taking on Basilan, the busiest team in the off season.

The Volcanoes, owned by Gil Orense and coached by Monel Kallos, will be headed by ex-pros Ronjay Buenafe and Alex Nuyles. The two will serve as the 1-2 punch of the team and expected to lead the squad all season long.

But these two players will have their hands full against a reenergized Steel, who made huge acquisitions in the off season.

Basilan, owned by businessman Hegem Furigay, has been able to lure some of the big names in the free agent market.

MPBL All-Star Jay Collado is probably the biggest addition in the team and the big man is joining his old teammate from the Quezon City Capitals – Hesed Gabo. Three more key players from the Pasay Voyagers were also included in the Steel line-up – Bobby Balucanag, Jett Vidal and Shaq Aalanes – while Michole Sorela was also taken in to provide added inside presence.

Basilan also secured the services of two more ex-pros in Jonathan Uyloan and Anthony Bringas.

From the collegiate ranks, Basilan was able to sign up Allyn Bulanadi, a star player from San Sebastian, and Philip Manalang, a heady guard from University of the East, as the two young players will join the MPBL right after fulfilling their commitment with their respective schools.

A colorful opening ceremony highlighted by the parade of 31 teams will kick off Season 3.