MPBL: Makati hopes team ethos and a balanced roster leads them to glory

Bob Guerrero on Nov 29, 2019 02:55 PM
MPBL: Makati coach Villanueva aims for a championship
"It's just evident anybody can step up any given night from our rookies to our veterans. " - Cholo Villanueva

The Makati Super Crunch have certainly established themselves as one of the elite squads in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.

They have consistently hung with the league's best. Not bad for a nomadic team that only played on their home court two weeks ago. According to Cholo Villanueva, the team's head coach, there is no one player who has contributed to this promising season.

"In every game there would be different players pulling through. It's just evident anybody can step up any given night from our rookies to our veterans,” remarked the former DLSU Green Archer. 

There's no particular player that stands out at this point but whoever can provide the good, better or best shot will shoot the open shot. Villanueva identifies Rudy Lingganay, Jeckster Apinan and Cedric Ablaza as his most consistent players this season. The last two were on point in crunch time a recent joust with San Juan but Super Crunch fell just short, 88-86.

San Juan's former La Salle standout, Justin Baltazar, blocked Apinan's potential game-winner from behind in the last seconds. Despite that loss against the champs, Makati is still upbeat and hopeful that they can take anything dished out to them. Remember, this is the team that hacked out a wild triple overtime win against Zamboanga Family's Brand Sardines two weeks ago. The side won 111-106 after three extensions. They bucked the absence in the end of Simon Atkins, who got thrown out of the game, and Apinan, who fouled out.

If you listen to the coach, the backbone of the team can be found much deeper than the starters and the second unit.

"People don't see the players who prepare our rotational players in practices for the game. Mostly these are composed of our homegrown and amateur players like Babap Sta. Maria, Ace Lacsamana, Rhoy Cayanan, Kako Morales, Edwin Asoro and Carlo Lloren. They simulate our opponents in practice to execute our game plans and adjustments for the game. They make it tough in practices for the guys who have many minutes during the game to create the right habits integrated in our game plans," shared Villanueva. 

Makati hopes to lean on a strong home crowd. The team and its sponsor have also been clever about how to build an atmosphere.

In their first home game against the Muntinlupa Cagers two weeks ago, fans had the choice of wearing white to watch for free at the newly-renovated Makati Coliseum, or buying a P20 bag of Super Crunch chips. Judging from the large crowd in white, most opted to support the team with their choice of attire. The scheme needs some work, though.

In both of their first two home games, Makati fans wore white only to see their opponents wear that color. In the two games Makati sported dark jerseys.

Whatever the color scheme, the newly spriced-up Makati Coliseum is a boon to the squad.

"Definitely, having your own home court provides you a different kind of energy especially playing infront of the Makatizens who waited so long for the opportunity to cheer for their home team. Having a new floor, rims and comfortably big locker rooms for each teams provides us the space for pre-game talks, muscle activation and proper mind setting for the games," said Villanueva.

The coach is also grateful for the brand's support. Super Crunch is a snack from Prifood Corporation, a Filipino snack food manufacturer based in Laguna that was founded in 1990.

"Super Crunch has been a big boost for us. Stability in maintaining a semi-pro team is very financially taxing but they have been consistent in providing the needs of the team which provides our confidence in just thinking about playing and representing the brand," added Villanueva. 

The sponsor could have splashed some cash for new cogs in the recent transfer period. But instead the team management expressed their confidence in the current squad by staying put.

"I think we are one of the most boring teams during trading period," admitted Cholo. "We haven't acquired or traded for players since the start of the conference. That's how much confidence I have in this group to go all the way. They have good chemistry and treat each one like family. We have each others back and trust that why you don't want to disrupt the bond that these guys have formed throughout the course of the year."

The camaraderie was evident last Thursday when Makati endured yet another triple overtime game, this time against the Batangas City Athletics - Tanduay. Makati watched in horror as the Batanguenos hit the last six points of regulation to force overtime. Then one more extension and then yet another. But in the end it was one of Villanueva's shock troopers, Joseph Sedurifa, who knocked in the dagger three with 30 seconds left in the third OT to finally secure the win.

"It as all heart and collective competitiveness of each and every player on the team to not lose the game," said a frazzled coach Cholo afterwards.

Makati are now sporting a gaudy 19-4 record and have the top teams like DavOcc, Manila, and San Juan in their crosshairs. Villanueva knows it's not the time to slack off.

"We will take it one game at a time and learn from the mistakes along the way. Yes, I'm optimistic of going all the way with this group, but we are still far away. We need to put in more work to achieve our ultimate goal of winning the title."

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