LONDON -- The reigning champions of a Filipino basketball league in east London are now kings of the west too.
The Pinoy Sunics edged the Wolfpack in a tense 72-69 overtime victory during the Premier Division final of the KAMPI (Kapisanan ng Manglalarong Pilipino sa Inglatera) West winter league.
Fans of all ages turned up to witness the clash in Northolt on April 28, which featured two teams boasting several past and present MVP (Most Valuable Player) awardees in their lineups.
The opening two-and-a-half minutes were played at a frantic pace before the Sunics eventually drew first blood.
The Wolfpack repeatedly turned over the ball, but whenever they did manage to carve an open look their shots weren't falling. It took seven minutes before they registered their first points of the game.
The first quarter ended 18-6 in favor of the Sunics.
Led by shooting guard Noel Santos and center Josh Sabado, co-winners of the Finals MVP award, the Sunics continued to take advantage of the Wolfpack's slow start on the offensive end.
With four minutes remaining in the second quarter, the team from east London had built a commanding 19 point lead and appeared to be coasting; the score 28-9.
But in the last two minutes of the half, the Wolfpack woke up, reducing the deficit through Season MVP Ryan Abeleda and point guard Jay Jahnke, who finished top scorer with 20 points.
The teams went in at the break 36-24 to the Sunics.
The Wolfpack stifled the Sunics in the third quarter, outscoring their opponents by eight points to bring themselves within touching distance. It ended 46-42 to the Sunics.
With three minutes 25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter the Wolfpack took the lead for the first time in the game, 54-55, following a fast break lay-up by guard JJ Rizal.
The Sunics regained the lead, 56-55, with two minutes on the clock after multi-MVP forward Bing Vidad, who contributed 15 points, sank both his foul shots from the line.
With 16.6 seconds left, the Wolfpack penetrated the zone before kicking the ball out to Jahnke on the perimeter, who nailed the shot to give his side a 56-58 lead.
However, with 1.8 seconds remaining, Sunics guard Mark Ordoña got free and banked a mid-range jumper to tie the game at 58-58.
The Wolfpack created one more chance before the buzzer sounded, but they failed to convert a tip-in under the basket.
Overtime was a see-saw battle with both sides going blow for blow, but an interception and layup by Sabado with a minute left gave the Sunics the lead; 70-69, which in the end was enough. It ended 72-69.
"I think we just got a little bit lucky towards the end," Sunics coach Ryan Ocampo told ABS-CBN Europe.
"They took some bad shots because maybe defensively we tightened up really, really well. They were under pressure.
"When we got the momentum back, it was very difficult. Basketball is a game of momentum so once we had it back it made things more comfortable for us. Maybe that's what turned it," he said.
The Sunics have dominated the KAMPI Safe league in east London in recent years. This season was the first time for them to compete in KAMPI West.
"It has been very, very difficult. Every game has been hard. Most of the good players in London, they come and play in this league," Ocampo said.
"We've played some really tough games, and we've become better players as a result," he added.
The KAMPI West title is the Sunics' fifth championship overall.
They also dedicated the win to recently deceased Eddie de la Cruz, who is the father of Sunics players John and Charles de la Cruz.
Under-21 final, 3-point contest, Conference final
Earlier in the day three other events were played out.
In the final of the Under-21 development league, the Sultans beat the WildKings, 85-74. The east London-based team were also the KAMPI Safe development league reigning champions.
Steven Mercado of the WildKings made it three three-point titles in a row after beating the Sultans' Jon Munoz in the final round.
Meanwhile, the D'Uragons defeated the UK Pioneers, 73-66, to win KAMPI Wests' second-tier league the Conference.
"We feel great. I want to congratulate the team as well as our opponents the UK Pioneers. They are very good players as well, so I congratulate them as well," commented veteran D'Uragons player and assistant coach Danny Dumlao.