MORE than a decade ago, powerhouse Tanduay’s bid for a fifth straight title was derailed by underdog Dr. J.
Similarly, NLEX’s drive for five was halted by Blackwater Sports.
“Parehong-pareho,” veteran coach Leo Isaac said, noting the similarities of the two championships, after guiding the Elite to their first PBA D-League title with an 80-74 victory over the Road Warriors in Game Two on Tuesday.
In his last title win in an amateur league, Isaac steered Dr. J Rubbing Alcohol past powerhouse Tanduay Rhum and to the top of the 1998-1999 Philippine Basketball League Centennial Cup.
Isaac noted that Tanduay was also going for its fifth straight crown before heading to the PBA and had an All-Star cast of Eric Menk, Willie Miller, Chris Cantonjos, Mark Telan and Ren-Ren Ritualo and coached by Alfrancis Chua.
Meanwhile, Dr. J had lesser-known players in Robin Mendoza, Bryan Gahol, Ogie Gumatay, Marvin Ortiguerra, and Roel Buenaventura.
The Road Warriors have a stellar cast that included Gilas Pilipinas pool member Greg Slaughter and cadet pool members Jake Pascual, Kevin Alas and Garvo Lanete.
But the Elite dug deep as they shockingly sweep the defending champions on a team led by Allan Mangahas, Justin Chua, Robby Celiz, Kevin Ferrer, and Pari Llagas.
This time was quicker, however, as Blackwater scored a series sweep, while Dr. J defeated Tanduay in five games.
“Mahirap ’yung umpisa palang ng game, alam mo na kung sino ang mananalo,” Isaac said of NLEX’s dominance, but he said his wards persevered.
“’Yung mga bata, gusto talagang manalo,” said Isaac.