Back in the 2017, rookie Gian Marcelo sat on the bench holding back tears as he watched the formidable Sagradan Squires got dismantled in the district championship match.
As the final buzzer of this year’s district meet sounded, the now-team captain leaped in front of the crowd, pumping his fist and flexing his arms while his hoarse, guttural cries blended with the joyous celebration of the Sagradan faithful.
The Sagradan Squires are back on top.
Marcelo poured 12 of his 14 points in the second half, and the Squires outlasted the gritty Colegio Sta.Monica de Angat, 49-41, to retake the BULPRISA elementary basketball district championship on Monday at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel College.
Days after a momentous win over Living Angels Christian Academy, the embattled Squires stamped their class on an adamant Sta. Monica team by coming back from an eight-point deficit in the third quarter to give the school its first championship in any team sport since 2015.
The fiery Marcelo led the charge, chalking up six points off three steals in a pivotal 13-2 run that gave the Squires a 30-27 lead entering the final frame. He and the Squires would never look back, staving off any fightback from Sta. Monica to secure a ticket to the provincial meet in October.
“Naisip ko, last year ko na ito sa elem. Gusto ko na pong magchampion,” said Marcelo, who also snatched five steals in the second half alone.
Back home, pupils formed long lines leading to the MDSF gym to stage a fitting welcome for the Squires as they brought home the BULPRISA trophy while the school anthem echoed on the corridors of the elementary building.
“This championship means so much to us because we had longed for this victory for so many years. It’s a product of the grit that has been developed all throughout the years of not being able to snatch the finals. Losing made them aim for greater heights,” school principal Maria Cristina Silamor said.
Gerwyn Sorsano, the other standout from the 2017 team, had a quiet shooting performance in the finals after his 29-point explosion on Friday. He wound up with eight points, but made it up on the defensive end with huge rebounds and steals in the second half despite reeling from lingering back pains and a flu.
Jerome Quizon contributed 11 points, including the buzzer-beating triple which punctuated the Squires’ undefeated run in the district meet.
But it came with tough challenges. Gone were the days when the Sagradans would steamroll other teams with 50-plus point wins, and this championship is one that is worth remembering for the hard lessons that came with it.
Sta. Monica shrugged off its underdog status and had the four-time champs on the ropes for most of the game behind their taut defense and excellent plays that led to open baskets.
“Naging kampante kami. Hindi namin inaasahan na ganun yung larong ipapakita nila. Natapatan nila kung ano yung mayroon kami,” said coach Honeylene Mangulabnan.
“Before, it was easier to win the championship. Now, almost every school is a contender and the players must really make sure that they come to every game prepared and well trained,” said Silamor.
The Squires staff and players will head back to the drawing board ahead of the provincial meet and try to accomplish what the previous Sagradan teams fell short at: the provincial championship.
But for now, the Squires would savor the sweet moment of another title. The string of heart-breaking runner-up finishes had finally snapped.
“Very thankful kami kasi binigay ni Lord yung chance na ‘to para makapag-champion kami. Last time alam namin na nakarating kami sa Inter-school [finals]. Doon, di kami pinalad pero naging blessing in disguise ‘yun para mas ma-enjoy namin ito [championship] ngayon,” said coach Adrian Bognot.
By: Dan Angelo DL. Bagadiong
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