IPIL, ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY — The Basilan Peace Riders are finally back on the hardcourt after 15 months of basketball hiatus, no thanks to the pandemic.
However, the Peace Riders could have played three months earlier as they were supposed to play in the 2020-21 Chooks-to-Go Marlika Pilipinas Basketball League Lakan Cup playoff bubble last March in Subic, but problems got in the way.
The Steel, their monicker in the MPBL before changing to Peace Riders in the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup, was in a 1-1 deadlock with Davao Occidental in the Southern Division Finals before COVID-19 broke the norm.
When the regional league finally got the nod of IATF to conduct a bubble, Basilan, together with then Tigers, San Juan, and Makati went to Subic.
There, two members of the Steel delegation tested positive for COVID-19 and were given an ultimatum that when they take the re-test a week after and even at least one test comes back positive, their all-or-nothing Game Three against Davao will be called no contest.
After the re-test, Basilan netted four positive tests, resulting in a default. The squad has since questioned the action taken by the league.
With the sour relationship, Basilan decided to go pro and transfer to the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup.
And finally, on Wednesday, the Peace Riders played ball and registered a monster debut, routing ALZA Alayon Zamboanga del Sur, 82-48, at the Provincial Gymnasium here.
For team captain Jonathan Uyloan, VisMin is an opportunity for them to use their frustrations on their past league to climb atop the Mindanao Leg.
“It left a bad taste on our mouth to end the MPBL season in a default,” said the soft-spoken Uyloan.
“So we brought all that energy, passion, and hard work here so I think we’ll be ready.”
In their transition to the regional pro league, Basilan added key players to reinforce its campaign.
They added sweet-shooting combo guards Chris Bitoon and Jong Baloria; uber-athletic Michael Juico; enforcers Michael Mabulac and JR Taganas; and Stephen Siruma.
Retained in the lineup were Jay Collado, Hesed Gabo, Bobby Balucanag, Philip Manalang, Junjie Hallare, and Darwin Lunor.
But more than redemption for what happened to the team in the MPBL, head coach Jerson Cabiltes bared the most important reason on why they need to have a good showing in this league.
“It is not actually redemption,” said Cabiltes.
“We just want to give the people, the province, yung kumbaga hope and inspiration sa bawat isa.”
Source: Tiebreaker Times