CEBU CITY – Southern Philippines’ legendary basketball team M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Ninos will play three teams from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in the 2011 Mayor’s Cup from January 25 to 27 at the Cebu Coliseum. The Meralco Bolts, Alaska Aces and Powerade Tigers have accepted the invitation to visit the Queen City of the South and test M. Lhuillier’s mettle.
The PBA squads are expected to bring in and test their imports for next month’s Commissioner’s Cup. Because of this, M. Lhuillier coach Raul “Yayoy” D. Alcoseba has recalled Geremy Robinson to reinforce the hosts.
The 6’3” Robinson, a University of Hawaii product, is no stranger to local basketball having played for M. Lhuillier way back in 2003 in a weeklong invitational tournament in Cebu where they defeated the national teams of Qatar and Chinese-Taipei en route to the title. He also wowed the crowd by winning the tournament dunk contest. Aside from M. Lhuillier, Robinson has also had stints with Spring Cooking Oil in the 2002 FIBA-Asia Champions Cup and also with FedEx/Air 21 in the PBA.
A lot of attention will be on the Bolts, who recently made news by acquiring guard Solomon Mercado and reserve center Paolo Bugia from Rain Or Shine in exchange for center Beau Belga and a draft pick. The Ryan Gregorio-coached made waves in the recent Philippine Cup, its maiden PBA campaign, by finishing with an even 7-7 elimination round card but was swept by B-Meg Derby Ace in the quarterfinals, 0-2. Mercado is expected to team up with franchise cornerstones Mark Cardona and Asi Taulava.
The Aces are a frequent Cebu visitor and are aching to erase the frustrations of recent setbacks against M. Lhuillier. In their visit in March of last year, M. Lhuillier beat the Aces at the University of San Carlos Gym, 88-87, but lost ace playmaker Woodraw Enriquez via a career-ending spine injury. A demoralized M. Lhuillier then bowed to the Aces the following day at the Don Celestino Martinez Coliseum in Bogo the following day, 75-87. Returning last September, M. Lhuillier torched the Aces again, 93-82. The Aces also ended the last Philippine Cup with a 7-7 record and lost to Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals, 1-2. Cyrus Baguio, Tony dela Cruz, Joe De Vance and Sonny Thoss will spearhead the attack of Coach Tim Cone’s charges.
Meanwhile, the Powerade Tigers under Coach Bo Perasol are a team determined to turn their fortunes around after a disappointing Ninth Place ranking in the Philippine Cup, missing the playoffs with a 3-11 slate marred by losses in all their final eight games. Gary David led the PBA in scoring but needs more help from the likes of veterans Dennis Espino and Eddie Laure and import Titus Ivory, the first import to report for duty.
The four teams will play a single-round robin with the team with the best win-loss record declared the champion. There will be no championship game and ties will be resolved via the quotient system.
Coach Alcoseba has maintained the nucleus of the team that won 2010’s Tournament of the Philippines (TOP), a joint venture of Liga Pilipinas and the Philippine Basketball League (PBL). TOP Most Valuable Player Stephen Padilla remains the leader of the team along with battle-tested veterans Bruce Dacia, Marlon Basco, Ariel Mepana, Mark Ababon, Eliud Poligrates, Frank Nailon, Ian Saladaga, Hafer Mondragon, Nat Cruz and Mark Magsumbol. Aside from Robinson, the only other addition to the team is swingman Ariel Capus, a former Alaska Ace.
Tickets for the daily doubleheaders will be sold at the Cebu Coliseum box office at popular prices in what could be the biggest basketball event in the city in the last decade.