LONDON -- The Sunics have reclaimed their status as the champions of a Pinoy basketball league in east London after a closely fought final versus the Controllers.
The men's final of the 2012 KAMPI (Kapisanan ng mga Manlalarong Pilipino sa Inglatera) Safe league, which began last July, took place in the area of Prince Regent on November 11.
Fans packed a hall at the Royal Docks Community Center for the deciding game of a best-of-three series, which was tied at one-apiece.
Last year, the Controllers won their first title, and in doing so, prevented the Sunics from bagging a historic four consecutive championships.
The Sunics wanted revenge, while the Controllers were eager to prove their triumph in 2011 was not just a one-off eclipse.
The noisy crowd, who were banging on drums and blowing horns, created a highly charged atmosphere that set the tone for a frantic start to the game.
The Sunics led throughout the first half, which ended 31-27.
After the break, both teams kept up intensity levels, but the Sunics remained ahead, outscoring the Controllers in the third quarter. It ended 48-42 in favor of the Sunics.
The Controllers chased in the remaining quarter, but failed to convert crucial shots as time ticked away, which forced them to send their opponents to the foul line. The Sunics eventually rode out winners, 66-59.
Sunics forward Orvie Vidad admits last season's loss against the Controllers gave his team extra motivation to reclaim the KAMPI Safe championship.
"Words cannot express it - our fourth ring," said Vidad, who finished with 17 markers and was named the season's most valuable player (MVP).
"We wanted revenge. We had to respect them because they're a good team, they're a great team, but with hard work, determination, it paid off.
"I'd like to thank the Sunics family, all our supporters, all our family, they've been great," Vidad added.
He also paid tribute to Sunics coach Mark Ordoña, who was given a celebratory drenching whilst being interviewed by ABS-CBN Europe.
"It feels good, we put a lot of hard work into it," Ordoña said.
Sunics guard John Ragasa led his team with 18 points and was named finals MVP.
As the dominant forces in the KAMPI Safe league, the Sunics and Controllers have developed a fierce rivalry over recent years.
Ordoña believes it is not only healthy for the host organization, but also good for the players and fans that turn up in numbers whenever the sides clash.
For Sunics fan Richie Caparros, redemption was sweet.
"I can't express my feelings right now, because they're my boys. I've grown up with the majority of them, and them [the Controllers] being champions last year hurt us. We knew we had to get it back this time, we had to get it back," Caparros said.
In an email to ABS-CBN Europe, Controllers guard JJ Rizal said: "It was always going to be an interesting game - it always is between us.
“On the day, the Sunics were that little bit better and worked that little bit harder to get the win we both wanted,” he said.
“We won't hang our heads for long. We will pick ourselves up and fight to get back to the top,” added Rizal, who contributed 11 points.
Controllers point guard Jay Jahnke led all scorers with 24 points, nine of which were from beyond the arc.
Impex Dragons claim 3rd
Earlier in the day, the 3rd and 4th place decider between the Rivals and Impex Dragons went down to the wire.
With 33 seconds remaining in the game, and the scores level at 74-74, Impex were sent to the foul line. Both shots were converted.
The Rivals attempted to bounce back but spurned two 3-point opportunities. The score ended 78-74 to the Impex Dragons.
Impex captain/coach Ardy Santos felt his team's experience helped them triumph over their younger and fitter opponents.
"They're very good players but I think, because we're matured players, we probably used it [the ball] more wisely. They've got the speed, but we've got the skills," said Santos.
Impex forward Marvin De Vera led his team with 16 points.
Rivals guard Jon Muñoz, who scored 11, conceded: "They fought hard and they hustled a lot harder than us, so they deserved the W."
Rivals coach DJ Sayson added: “The better team won today, so I take my hat off to the Dragons, they played a better game.”
The KAMPI Safe league, now approaching its 22nd year of existence, is the longest running Pinoy basketball tournament in London.
The Sunics are the second team in the league's history to achieve the feat of four championship titles. The first team were Epsom.
The new KAMPI Safe season has been given a tentative start date of July 2013.