SANTA CRUZ, Laguna – It will be a dual meet between Luzon and Mindanao as the Laguna Golden Lions and Gov. ER Ejercito hosts the Laguna Leg of the SMC Liga Pilipinas Conference V beginning today (May 25) at the San Luis Sports Complex.
Joining the Golden Lions in the four-team, four-day tournament backed by San Miguel, Molten, Summit Natural Drinking Water and Accel are fellow Luzon team Ilocos Sur CS Tigers of Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson and Mindanao entries Misamis Oriental Meteors of Gov. Oscar S. Moreno and the MP Warriors of GenSan of Rep. Manny Pacquiao.
All four participants hope to gain on early pacesetters defending National Champion M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Ninos and Cebu Landmasters RDAK-Mandaue who have drawn byes this week. The two Cebu-based squads split the first two legs in Ilocos Sur and Cebu City and now have 22 and 15 Liga Tour Points respectively. The CS Tigers are at Third Place with eight, followed by the Meteors and MP Warriors with four apiece. The Golden Lions occupy the cellar with a solitary point.
The Golden Lions hope to reverse their fortunes after losing all their four games in the Ilocos Sur Leg a month ago. That led to the hiring of basketball legend Philip Cezar to replace Nomar Isla as head coach. Coach Isla, who handled Laguna since the team’s inception in 2008, leaves behind five leg championships and a 47-49 career win-loss record.
Laguna will bank anew on the prolific trio of Jonathan Aldave (15.7 PPG), Glenn Bolocon (14.0 PPG) and Ricky Ricafuente (11.3 PPG). Other possible options for the home team include Brian Faundo, Boyet Bautista and Robert Sanz.
The CS Tigers of Coach Johnedel Cardel are playing in their third straight weekly leg and are also coming off a winless week at the Cebu City Leg. It is only forward Chito Jaime who has been consistent with 12.8 PPG as the rest of the team’s individual numbers dipped considerably. Ramsey Williams, Warren Ybanez, Jemal Vizcarra and Jorel Canizares hope to redeem themselves in Laguna.
Just like the CS Tigers, the Meteors are turning into a one-man show behind shooter Patrick Cabahug, the team’s only double-digit scorer at 12.8 PPG. The lack of support tolled heavily as the Meteors of Coach Jun Noel finished in Third Place last week in Cebu. However, players like Lyndon Gudez, Dino Daa, Neil Raneses and Ronald Lamocha have shown that they could provide the needed extra firepower.
Finally, the MP Warriors of Coach Arvin Bonleon boasts of Liga’s best offense at 80.8 PPG behind current Liga scoring leader Alfie Grijaldo who norms 17.8 PPG. Still, the team has to work on its defense, Liga’s worst at 85.8 PPG. Coach Bonleon admits they are in dire need of another center to shore up their defense.
Grijaldo, who used to play for Laguna last year when they were based in Los Banos and called the Stallions, hopes to get help from guards Alex Angeles and Louie Medalla, shooter Jonathan Parreno and big men Christian Nicdao and Dondon Mendoza.
Fans may be in for a treat as Pacquiao, who maintains a home in Laguna and where his two sons also attend school, could make an appearance and even play for his own team.