The Muntinlupa Cagers’ 85-76 victory over the Marikina Shoemasters in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup on Thursday may not count for anything.
Because they insisted on playing Felix Apreku and Chester Saldua, both still considered "Fil-foreign" players and thus cannot play together based on league rules, the Cagers face possible forfeiture if officials decide to strictly adhere to the bylaws.
For now, however, the Cagers may celebrate being the solo leader in the South division with a 2-0 record.
The Angelis Resort-backed Cagers topped Mandaluyong El Tigre, 86-74, in the June 12 opener, where both Apreku and Saldua also played.
According to commissioner Kenneth Duremdes, MPBL legal counsel Brando Viernesto will meet with Cagers representatives within the week to settle the issue of whether Apreku — who was raised in Northern Samar, played varsity basketball for Letran and is fluent in Tagalog and Waray — qualifies as a "Fil-foreigner" or not.
Duremdes sent a letter to Cagers team owner Ross Kenneth Alvarez before the start of the game, saying that if both players were fielded, it would constitute a forfeiture.
A consideration, however, was given to the Cagers as they contend to have a document from the Department of Justice certifying that Apreku is Filipino.
Though elated with the scrappy win at Muntinlupa Sports Complex, Cagers coach Aldrin Morante said it was hard to focus on the game, especially in the early going, because the team didn’t know what would happen in case it won.
With the 6-foot-4 Apreku snaring 16 rebounds, the Cagers, who drew 19 points and 10 rebounds from Chito Jaime, ruled the boards, 51-39.
Steadier with their plays, the Cagers committed fewer turnovers 30-16, which they translated into a 32-18 edge in points off turnovers.
The Shoemasters, who fell to 1-1, were again powered by the prolific Yves Sazon. Despite being harassed most of the time, the 6-foot-1 Sazon still managed 27 points after a league-record 33, giving him an average of 30 per game.
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