LONDON – The Genesis Professionals clinched their second straight basketball title in London after winning the 2012 Kapisanan ng mga Manlalarong Pilipino sa Inglatera (KAMPI) West winter league title against rival squad Stunners, 82-74.
|The Genesis Professionals celebrate after winning the KAMPI West winter league championship.
The game between the Genesis and the Stunners last April 22 in Northolt, London was an eagerly anticipated rematch between last year’s KAMPI West summer league finalists.
Genesis were favorites going into the game despite having parted ways with the majority of their championship winning side in the off-season.
Experienced stalwarts such as former PBA veterans Mike Mustre and Ruel Bravo were replaced by some of the most talented players from both KAMPI East and West leagues.
Genesis’ rising talent Terence Mustre, son of Mike, was now joined by the likes of last season’s KAMPI West Most Valuable Player (MVP) Stanley Gitau, East MVP Bing Vidad, and a host of players from reigning East champions the Controllers.
Genesis lost only once in the eight-game regular season, dropping their game against Flight Club.
Meanwhile, former two-time champions Stunners were the underdogs, but had a consistent season and were not to be underestimated. Boosted by the addition of regular season MVP Jay Jahnke to their line-up, the finalists lost only once during the regular season – against Genesis.
Apart from a few other additions, the main core of the Stunners team remained intact and were eager to get revenge against Genesis. Players like best forward Angel Ebilane, former MVP Jeff de Vera, George Pineda, Patrick Muyot and Lloyd Sambo all stayed to suit up for the black-and-red.
Right from the tip-off, Genesis broke into an early lead and forced the Stunners into committing a series of turnovers, which Vidad eagerly took advantage off.
After the first eight minutes of the game, Genesis had taken a 21-5 lead.
The Stunners were struggling to convert in the paint, but a three-pointer from Jahnke sparked a 9-0 run over 60 seconds. With 10 minutes remaining in the first half, the Stunners were beginning to find a rhythm.
Genesis guard Abeleda then responded by controlling the pace, while Gitau used his athleticism to find ways to get to the ring. The Genesis advantage was extended to 11 points with eight minutes left after Mustre sank a deep three, 33-22.
The Stunners concentrated on exploiting openings in the post and over the remaining six minutes, managed to rally and cut the deficit to five points. The first half ended 45-40 in favor of Genesis.
After the break, the Stunners picked up where they left off and managed to reduce the gap to only 1 point at 48-49, with Stunners forward Ebilane and Izaac doing most of the heavy lifting.
Genesis pulled away once more, however, by capitalizing on fast break opportunities. They maintained an average lead of 7 points over the next few minutes before the Stunners came roaring back, bringing the score to 67-68 with seven minutes to play.
But Stunners playmaker Jahnke fouled out with six minutes left in the game, and his team struggled to keep up with Genesis. The defending champions successfully held off the Stunners in the final few minutes of the contest to win with a final score of 82-74.
Genesis forward Stanley Gitau led all scorers with 26 points, but his teammate Josh Sabado pointed out that defense was key to their victory.
"Defense wins games, and I think we played better defense. The hustle was there, we boxed everyone out and got every single rebound," Sabado said.
Genesis guard Mustre finished with 22 points and was adjudged Finals MVP. He shared Sabado’s sentiment, saying, "It was hard, but we played good defense and stopped them from scoring."
"This year, we had younger guys so we just ran and ran and beat them on the fast break," Mustre added.
Ebilane, who once again picked up the season's best power forward award, finished with 17 points to lead the Stunners, while Jahnke finished with 9 points.
"At the start of the season, we all predicted that Genesis will win it," Jahnke said. "Actually, we went over the expectations of our team. We made it to the finals, but fell short."
"Still though, I'm proud as a Stunner," he added.
Four events were held prior to the title game, the first of which was the third place playoff between the Malay Warriors and D’Jump.
That game ended in controversy, however. With four seconds remaining and Malay ahead 83-81, D’Jump looked to break after a player grabbed a defensive rebound. He was quickly surrounded, however, and the referee called a travelling violation.
D’Jump players were frustrated with the call and one of them pushed the referee, resulting in his ejection from the game. Malay ended up winning 86-81.
An exhibition game also took place between Team Young Ones and Team Young Once. The Young Ones were a mix of players under the age of 20, all vying for places on a team that will be taken to the United States to compete later in the year. The Young Once team, meanwhile, consisted of players above 20 years old, including some members of the KAMPI West committee.
Young Once led for most of the opening half and were ahead 44-31 going into the break, but the second half was a different story as the Young Ones stormed back to win the game, 91-85.
In the three-point competition, Steven Mercado of REPA successfully defended his title, beating 23 other competitors.
Meanwhile, the Wildcards and the London Eagles competed for the KAMPI Cup, a competition for the teams that failed to make the championship playoffs. The contest was back-and-forth all the way before the Eagles held off the Wildcards for an 85-80 victory.
KAMPI West chairman Sonny Sanchez said the day full of games was a success.
"Finals day was a fantastic day, all games were very close," he said. "It was good to see the best two teams in the finals, where Genesis came out worthy winners."
"Congratulations to them and all the award winners. I’d like to thank all the participants, teams, players and supporters who make this league worth all the sacrifices," he added.
The next KAMPI West season, which will feature 18 teams, begins on June 24.