HOBE Bihon-Cars Unlimited exacted sweet vengeance on former tormentor FEU-NRMF, 81-76, to capture the 5th DeLeague Cup championship in a nail-biting finish to a thrilling basketball season organized by the city government of Marikina.
Hobe Bihon avenged its losses to the powerhouse Tamaraws in the eliminations and the single round robin semifinals in the most important games of the tournament.
First, the Mark Young-owned ballclub emerged victorious over FEU-NRMF for the first time all season in Game One of the finals, 72-57, to arrange a do-or-die finals match versus their rivals which swept its first eight games en route to a twice-to-beat edge in the championship round.
Then, thanks to old mainstays Bonbon Custodio, Al Vergara, Erick Dela Cuesta, and new recruits Roger Yap, Sunday Salvacion, and Rain or Shine import Wayne Chism, the FoodMasters sustained their momentum and sealed their third championship in the five-year old tournament.
Hobe stormed ahead early and took a commanding 11-point at the final 5:33 mark of the game, but Willie Miller and FEU-NRMF team captain Leo Avenido led a furious comeback for the Tams.
With the Tamaraws down 69-77 with just 1:20 left, Miller and Avenido buried successive three-pointers while Bright Akhuetie added a quick basket in the paint to cut down the deficit to just two, 76-78, in the final 16 seconds.
But critical miscues in the endgame by the Nino Reyes-backed FEU-NRMF team allowed Hobe to escape with the win.
"Wala sa isip namin ang magcha-champion rito kasi ang lalakas ng kalaban lalo na yung FEU-NRMF. Ang dami pa naming mga problema na kinailangang ayusin, grabe 'yung pangarap namin na makuha ito. Buti nakuha," said Hobe coach Braulio Lim.
"Ang hirap kasi hindi kami nanalo sa kanila eh. Kaya ginawa namin ang lahat para lang makabawi and at the same time, makuha itong kampyeonato. Naibsan yung sakit ng loob namin sa talo sa kanila nung eliminations," he added.
Miller, the hero of Siargao Legends' championship conquest against Hobe in this same league last year, can only shake his head after the loss.
"Wala, kinapos talaga. Masakit para sa amin kasi wala kaming talo sa eliminations at semis, tapos yung dalawang importanteng laro, dun pa kami natalo," said the former two-time PBA MVP, who missed Game One of the finals after joining his Pilipinas MX3 Kings in an ABL road game in Thailand last Saturday.
Watch video highlights of the deciding game:
After regaining supremacy in the DeLeague, a tournament featuring some of the biggest players from the collegiate ranks and newly-retired PBA stars, Hobe Bihon-Cars Unlimited is now looking to spread its wings.
"We might explore the possibility of joining other major leagues like the PBA D-League, kasi next in line sa amin is an invitaton to play in Malolos, Bulacan, yung Republika, then we'll take it from there," said Young, a popular car businessman in Metro Manila.
"DeLeague is a very competitive tournament. We started here, then maybe in the last quarter of 2016 we might be bigger," he added.