PAMPANGA'S claim to being the hotbed of Philippine Basketball will be put to a test on Sunday when Infant Jesus Academy fly the province's flag when it fights for supremacy in the Fr. Martin’s Cup Division II finals at the FEU Gym in Manila.
The team backed by basketball patron and Pampanga vice governor Dennis Pineda has long been waiting for an opponent in the finals after beating title contender Xavier School Golden Stallions in double overtime, 108-102, in the semifinals last Saturday.
Led by teen giant Jay Pangalangan's 18-point, 18-rebound performance, the Blue Wolves will play the winner of the other semifinal between AMA Junior Titans and Manila Patriotic School on Saturday.
The finals is set on Sunday.
After finishing the eliminations with a league-best7-1 win-loss slate, the Pampanga dribblers have become a force to be reckoned with as 6-8 Pangalangan combines with future UAAP prospects Jerome Ibay and Owie Magpayo and Palarong Pambansa standout point guard Wilson Carmona.
Nu Bullpups coach Jeff Napa, the Division 1 juniors champion coach, believes the Blue Wolves will be the team to watch as the Pampanga-based ball club is loaded in all positions, based on his personal scouting.
“Matibay 'yan. Kumpleto ang lineup nila eh saka magaganda ang pamamalakad ni Vice Gov. Magandang match-up 'yun, kasi dyan papatunayan ng Pampanga na may kakayahan sila,” said Napa.
“Ang maganda pa diyan, nakaka-inspire ang story ng team nila, kasi galing probinsya tapos tinatalo ang mga team dito sa Manila,” he said.
Pampanga sports development head Allan Trinidad bared that their present crop of young players are trained in the same way they developed PBA stars Calvin Abueva, Arwind Santos and ian Sangalang during their early years.
“Ganun talaga ang training naming dito. Parang PMA-er sila, aral sa umaga tapos ensayo at weights sa hapon. Kaya makikita mo naman ang bilis ng pagpapakilala ng mga players,” said Trinidad.
“Last year, second placer na kami sa Fr. Martin’s Cup, ngayon wala akong makitang dahilan para pabayaan namin ang korona ng torneo sa Linggo. Milyon ang ginagasta ni Vice para sa training ng mga 'yan,” he added.
Spin.ph caught a glimpse of the Blue Wolves’ tune-up game against UAAP juniors champion National University Bullpups. Here's the video:
Pineda, for his part, bared his staff continues to scour the province for tall and promising cagers in an attempt to officially rival Cebu as the top breeder of high-caliber players.
“Kung pupuwede na makatulong ang mga Kapampangan sa pagpapayabong ng pride ng bansa, magiging masaya ako. Alam mo naman ang mga Kapampangan, pag lumaban talaga, buhos at puso,” said the soft-spoken vice governor.