MPBL: Sting of Finals loss still felt by Muntinlupa Cagers, says Allan Mangahas
"Expect na lalaban at lalaban kami kasi sobrang sakit nga yung nangyari sa amin last conference, so hindi na siguro namin hahayaan na mangyari ulit sa amin yun, lesson learned na yung last conference,"
Tuesday evening at the Araneta Coliseum, 2018 Maharlika Pilipinas Anta Rajah Cup runners-up Muntinlupa Cagers picked up an opening day win, taking down the highly-touted Mandaluyong El Tigre, 86-74, to kick off the 2018-2019 MPBL Anta Datu Cup.
Allan Mangahas, Chito Jaime, and Felix Apreku all had solid all-around performances to help the Cagers past the Ray Parks-led expansion Mandaluyong team.
And while the El Tigre were expected to take the MPBL by storm, ex-pro Mangahas says that the Cagers’ experience as a team was a big factor in pulling out the win.
“Positive lang kami, siyempre ang edge namin sa kanila is mas matagal na kaming magkakasama, sila bagong team lang.”
The biggest name on that Mandaluyong team is of course Parks, a two-time UAAP and ABL MVP, who finished with a game-high 22 points and ten rebounds.
“Pinaghandaan din namin si Ray Parks, kasi siyempre siya yung parang go-to-guy ng team so siya yung pinag-handaan namin. Nakadami pa din siya ng points pero maganda lang ay hindi masiyado naka-produce yung mga kakampi.” Mangahas said.
The ex-Mapua Cardinal added that the Cagers took a physical approach to playing Parks.
“Ang game plan lang is pag hawak ni Ray Parks, pag-ball screen, trap lang and medyo bump bump lang kasi scouting report ng coach namin, ayaw niya ng mga medyo physical na game, kaya sila Regie (Basibas), sila (Dhon) Reverente, sila yung na-task na depensahan si Ray Ray, so far so good naman kasi na-foul trouble siya, medyo nainis siya kasi three fouls siya sa first half. Malaking bagay sa team yun.”
The opening day win is just the first step in a long, ten-month Datu Cup, and Mangahas says that they haven’t thought about a return to the Finals just yet.
The goal now is to keep winning and stay healthy for another deep postseason run.
“Actually di pa namin iniisp yung finals, almost a year aabutin. Ang iniisip lang namin ay manalo ng mas madami and maging healthy yung mga players, kasi sa tagal ng liga, hindi naman natin masasabi kung anong mangyayari, so gusto lang ng management and coaches na maging healthy lahat para in the long run, kung papalarin na mag-finals, at least healthy.”
Mangahas admitted however, that last season’s finals heartbreak still stings the team, even as they embark on a new season.
In the inaugural Anta Rajah Cup, Muntinlupa made it all the way to the finals, only to be defeated by the Batangas Athletics, three games to one.
All three of Batangas’ wins came by an average margin of just four points, meaning the games were very close indeed, making the series loss a bit more tough to digest.
“Siguro, kasi kumbaga lahat ng games namin crucial, or dikit lang eh, yung matatambakan kami, then hahabol kami, then lalamang kami, parang kaya naman namin so siyempre masakit parin sa amin yun.”
Mangahas hopes that with a big win over a much-talked about team, the Cagers can give the Muntinlupa faithful something to be excited about again.
“At least nailabas na namin, favorites sina Ray Parks eh, nabalik naman na siguro namin yung tingin ng mga taga-Munti sa amin.”
“Siguro expect na lalaban at lalaban kami kasi sobrang sakit nga yung nangyari sa amin last conference, so hindi na siguro namin hahayaan na mangyari ulit sa amin yun, lesson learned na yung last conference, laban lang kami ng laban.” Mangahas added