By Amiel Luis Casambros
Three months of intensive training paid off for the Junior Falcons of Pinoy Basketball of Qatar (PIBAQ) as they succeeded in defending their title at the 2nd GCC U16 All-Filipino Championship Cup in Muscat.
Qatar’s Junior Falcons faced off representatives from Oman, Bahrain, and Dubai in the championship and emerged triumphant against the other teams.
On January 29, the Under-16 Junior Falcons squad left Doha to compete in the two-day tournament held in Muscat, Oman. They faced many hurdles, including problems related to visas and delayed flights that postponed their arrival in Oman. There were even players who arrived to their hotel four hours before the tournament. But none of these challenges affected the spirit of the team.
Prior to the embarking on their memorable journey, Community interviewed the team’s head coach, Francis Mercado. Talking about some of his expectations on the first day of the tournament he said: “We just have to play one game at a time, stay focused and play as a team to be able to prevail as champions once again.”
Despite the problems, the team cruised past the host team, Oman, with the final score of 101-28 to set the tone of their tournament opener.
They then won a game against Bahrain in dominating fashion with a score of 91-19. In the final elimination game, they faced Dubai, a team that was also undefeated and were also finalists of the tournament. The Junior Falcons prevailed in the finals preview 71-90.
On the second day of the championship, the team put out an encore of the elimination game vs UAE Dubai Jazzville, asserting their dominance on both sides of the floor with the final score of 82-64.
Coach Francis won the Best Coach of the tournament, which was a testament to what can be achieved with discipline and hard work.
Other awardees included: Mark Ruiz winning the Mythical Five award for the centre position after matching up against two players almost twice his size and outplaying them in the finals. “I felt great when they called my name when they were announcing who won the award and I also felt great when we won the championship,” Mark said after receiving his plaque.
Xavier Turo, a Mythical Five awardee for the Point Guard position, was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the season because of his consistent performance throughout the tournament. “I couldn’t be the MVP and a Mythical Five awardee without the support of my family, coaches Francis and Gab, and my teammates. I really loved winning the championship with this group of guys because this team is the most wonderful thing I have.”
Charles Guilles won the MVP of the finals because of his relentlessness, even after going down due to a sprained ankle in the 2nd Quarter and returning to the game in the 3rd Quarter to finish off the Jazzville team.
“As their captain, I feel every player’s happiness and joy because winning the championship was everything that we aimed and worked for and accomplishing that goal feels great,” said the team’s captain, Paul Acabado.
“It feels surreal because as a co-captain of the team, I am proud of each and every player. I would also like to thank our coaching staff for guiding us,” the team’s co-captain, Aaron Casambros added.
The team coached by Francis Mercado and Gabriel Navarro consisted of Paul Angelo Acabado from Philippine School Doha (PSD), Zeth Bukas from PSD, Jacey Kleon Cruz from PSD, Jhon David (JD) Cruz from PSD, Keight Daniel Comia from PSD, Kent Ryan Baluyot from PSD, Thirdy Ungui from PSD, Xavier Leon Victor Turo from PSD, David Andre Carmona from Philippine International School Qatar (PISQ), Mohammad Jaydan Bantuas from PISQ, Issah Emmanuel Aleria from PISQ, Mark Anthony Ruiz from PISQ, Charles Rex Guilles from Dukhan English School and Aaron Lewis Casambros from Compass International School Doha.
The event also received support from Ali Saeed al-Malki, Qatar Basketball Federation Secretary-General; Paterno Flores Carido, SBP Head, All Filipino Basketball Confederation (GCC); Dr Ahmad Tantawy, QBF National Team Technical Affairs and Gerald Gapas, SBP Qatar (Technical Head), as well as the parents and various community members.
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