EXPECT an all-out war between rulers of the North and South as the battle lines are drawn for the fiery National Finals of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).
After reigning supreme in their respective divisions, Northern king Pampanga and Southern majesty Bacoor lock horns on Saturday for Game 1 of their best-of-five finale showdown at the Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center in Pampanga.
And this early, the Giant Lanterns and the Strikers in their first ever national finals appearances are raring to go for an early leeway in an anticipated toe-to-toe race.
“It’s gonna be an exciting finals. It’s gonna be war dahil both teams are first-timers dito sa finals and both are loaded” said MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes, who was joined by both teams in the official pre-finals presser yesterday in Makati City. Pampanga, led by Most Valuable Player race frontrunner Justine Baltazar, cruised its way in the elimination round with an absurd 26-2 to record to top the North Division before stamping its class anew in the playoffs.
With Encho Serrano, John Lloyd Clemente and veteran Arwind Santos also in the fray, the Giant Lanterns swept their way through Marikina, Caloocan and San Juan in the playoffs to march on to the Last Dance as the undisputed heavy title favorites.
Bacoor, for its part, led the South Division with a 23-5 record and only absorbed a lone defeat in the playoffs against Iloilo before romping past last season runner-up Zamboanga and Batangas via sweep.
But the national finale will be a different atmosphere, warned team consultant Allan Trinidad of Pampanga headed by chief tactician and governor Dennis “Delta” Pineda.
The Strikers, an equal challenger after leading the South Division from the get go, echoes the same mindset with their patented defensive identity as the main weapon against the formidable North ruler. — John Bryan Ulanday