Sunday, March 21, 2010

Philippine Basketball League - March 18, 2010


I was in Manila last week and was fortunate to discover that the Philippine Basketball League was holding its season-opening tournament. Known as the PG Flex/Erase Placenta Cup (after two sponsors), the 8 teams in the league play each other once over a month, with the top 4 teams facing off in the playoffs.


Yesterday was the final round robin games held at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City (shown above). My hotel was close enough to walk there, although I wouldn't recommend the pedestrian option to those unfamiliar with Manila's streets - sidewalks are optional in places and traffic can be dangerous if you are not attentive.

When I arrived, I saw a sign that said entry was 700 pesos (about $14) which is outrageously expensive for here. But that must have been for another event, because I noticed a few fans just walking in, so I followed them in without any problem. Free sports! Doesn't get much better.

The arena is quite small, with about 1,000 seats in 9 rows that run along the sidelines and one end of the court. Obviously you can sit anywhere. There are some local delicacies outside and inside a few vendors walk around with pop and snacks throughout the afternoon.

There were two games scheduled and after they were complete, the semi-final matchups would be known.

Game 1 - Cobra Energy Drink Iron Men 88 vs Fern-C 82

The game was scheduled to start at 2:00 but I guess everybody had hot dates that night because they got things underway 20 minutes early! The game was even televised, so I don't know how they managed that, but nobody in the crowd of about 300 seemed to even notice.

Before the game, they played the Philippine National Anthem and then one of the players prayed, asking God for fair competition that is free from injury. The games here consist of 4 10-minute quarters, similar to the bj League in Japan.

Fern-C came in with just one win in their first 6 games while the Cobra Iron Men were 4-2. Both teams demonstrated horrible shooting off the start, with the first basket coming 2:20 into the game. But the Iron Men managed to get reasonably hot from 3-point land and took a 24-14 lead after one quarter.


Fern-C is in white, while Cobra is in yellow and black

Fern-C continued to throw up bricks but the Energy Drink squad couldn't break free until late in the 3rd when an 11-2 run gave them a 67-52 lead. The Ferntastics then went on a short 9-2 run to get within 8 but leading scorer Patrick Cabuhug netted two quick treys that pretty much settled the game. Although Fern-C used garbage time to get within 5 points on some good long range shooting, the final of 88-82 for Cobra was not as close as you might think.

Cobra's Marvin Hayes


Overall, this was a fast-paced game that took about 90 minutes to complete. With no TV timeouts and just a 10-minute halftime, there wasn't a lot of sitting around. The PBL is the development league (the Philippine Basketball Association is the big league here) and the players are clearly not the best at shooting. The cumulative shooting percentage was about 35% and often teams would take poor shots with plenty of time left on the shot clock.


The second game was not nearly as interesting. It turns out that the Cobra's victory in the first game meant that the Cossack Blue Spirits had clinched a spot in the playoffs, so they gave little effort. The first quarter ended 16-11 in favour of AddMix and that was the closest the game was as AddMix cruised to a meaningless 88-53 victory. I really didn't pay attention so have no comment on this tilt.


Probably the highlight of this game was AddMix's Jerick Cañada (shown shooting below), a small, speedy guard who notched 8 points. I know his last name is slightly different than my country of origin, but it was fun to watch him for that reason.


Notes

There were no foreign players in this league that I could tell. There were a couple of non-Filipinos, but investigation showed them to be locally based.

For those who don't know, basketball is huge in the Philippines, which is interesting as the population is not that tall in general. Every morning, there was one or two live NBA or NCAA games on various channels. They have two leagues plus a women's league, with most games seeming to take place in Manila.

During the game, they played music, but not your typical top 40. Instead, there was an ongoing drumbeat that seemed to energize the players. Very interesting and much better than the stupid "Defense" chants that permeate most other basketball games.

Next up

Real life has intervened again. I was hoping to travel to Osaka, Hiroshima, and Nagoya this weekend, but my girlfriend is changing jobs and that means she gets some vacation. So I'll be taking another non-sports trip in early April.

But I'll be visiting Phoenix and Las Vegas in May, so check back here for an updated schedule.

Best,

Sean

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