The basketball fever was at an all-time high as the 2023 Bola.TV AsiaBasket Las Pinas Championship tipped off at the iconic Villar Coliseum. Four highly-anticipated matches took center stage, delivering electrifying performances and leaving fans on the edge of their seats.
The tournament opener featured an impressive display from Justine Sanchez, a rising star in the making. While currently redshirting for the College of St. Benilde (CSB), Sanchez provided a glimpse of what the Blazers could expect next year as he led Corsa Tires to a stunning 89-78 victory. The young prodigy showcased his versatility, amassing an impressive stat line of 21 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks.
Corsa Tires’ triumph was not just a one-man show; their stifling defense played a crucial role in securing the win. After conceding 27 points in the opening quarter, Corsa’s defensive intensity increased, holding CSB to a combined 30 points in the second and third quarters. This impressive defensive effort allowed Corsa to pull away in the second quarter, establishing a 56-44 halftime lead.
Ahron Estacio and Gerald Anderson provided valuable support to Sanchez’s standout performance. Estacio displayed his skills with 17 points, six assists, three steals, and one block, while Anderson contributed 13 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
On the other side, the CSB Blazers fought valiantly, led by Will Gozum’s stellar performance. Gozum, returning to CSB, demonstrated his prowess with 18 points and seven rebounds. However, despite their efforts, the Blazers fell short in their opening match.
In another game, a stiff battle ensued between the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws and the Sanzar Pharmaceuticals Fire Tigers. Adeshokan Odou, a world-class import, showcased his talents in his AsiaBasket debut, delivering an exceptional performance. Odou’s presence was felt on both ends of the floor, recording an astounding 28 points, 24 rebounds, one assist, one block, and one steal.
Despite Odou’s heroics, the Fire Tigers could not overpower the collective effort of the FEU Tamaraws. Xyrus Torres and Cholo Anonuevo spearheaded the Tamaraws’ final charge within the last 4 minutes and 55 seconds of the game. Their impressive plays, combined with contributions from Royce Alforque and Patrick Sleat, secured an 81-75 victory for the collegiate squad.
Torres finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and one steal, while Alforque added 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Sleat’s double-double performance of 12 points and 11 rebounds was a key factor in maintaining their lead against the formidable Fire Tigers.
For Sanzar Pharmaceuticals, world import Salomon Kone provided significant support to Odou, contributing 16 points, 20 rebounds, two assists, and one block. Roger Ondoa, leading the locals, chipped in with 10 points, 12 rebounds, one steal, and one block.
Meanwhile, the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ Ateneo’s impeccable gameplay allowed them to dominate the match, securing a resounding 96-63 victory. Kai Ballungay led Ateneo’s charge with a double-double of 15 points and 15 rebounds. Mason Amos and Jason Credo each tallied 11 points, with Amos adding three rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and one steal.
Uratex, despite their efforts, struggled to keep pace with the dominant Ateneo squad. Mike Harry Nzeusseu stood out for Uratex with 23 points, seven rebounds, and two assists, while Bam-Bam Gamalinda contributed 16 points and five rebounds.
The game pitting National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) arch-rivals Letran Knights and the San Beda Red Lions also went down to the wire, captivating the crowd in attendance.
With just 4 minutes and 48 seconds remaining and the Knights trailing by 10 points, Kurt Reyson unleashed a barrage of back-to-back triples, igniting the Knights’ comeback. Reyson’s clutch performance was instrumental in Letran’s dramatic rally, finishing with 19 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and one steal.
Pao Javillonar provided valuable support for Letran’s late surge, contributing 14 points, eight rebounds, one block, and two steals. On the other side, Bryan Sajonia led the charge for San Beda with 25 points, two rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Ronrei Tolentino also displayed a commendable performance with 17 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, and three steals.
With the game on the line, the Red Lions had a chance to steal the win, but Letran’s defense held strong. RC Calimag’s first layup attempt was blocked by Javillonar, and despite Tolentino’s effort to capitalize on the opportunity, his layup missed the mark as time ran out. The Knights emerged victorious with a final scoreline of 85-84, securing a thrilling win over their rivals.