SURIGAO City ruled the inaugural season of the NickelAsia-backed Surigao del Norte Basketball Association after sweeping arch-rival Claver town in the best-of-three finals.
Surigao won a P100,000 cash prize and a P1 million donation for two classroom buildings for the victory - a prize so sweet after surviving the grinding pressure on the finals pitting two teams which hate each other.
So intense was the rivalry between the two teams that SNBA commissioner Joe Lipa decided to forego the usual home-and-away format and held the games in the neutral town of Tagana-an.
“Mainit ang dalawang teams eh. Nung elimination nila, hindi natapos kasi nag-free for all sa gitna ng court. Hindi biro ang basketball rivalry ng dalawang teams na yan,” said Lipa.
“Tumanda ako ng todo rito lalo. Grabe ang reklamuhan, grabe ang pulitika nila sa basketball. Masyado silang passionate. To the higher level ang pagiging parochial sa basketball ng mga tao rito,” said the former national coach.
The intense emotions of the finals lived up to Lipa's expectations.
The two finals matches were marked by tense scene that saw the ejection of Claver coach Chelito Caro, who went wild on the sidelines after contesting a technical foul whistled against him by one of the referees.
Caro and his Claver team where hoping to avenge their 110-97 loss in Game One behind streak-shooting guard Eleazar Napala and Jeffrey Catamco, but Surigao City had all the answers as it pulled off a nail-biting 100-98 win in Game Two to clinch the title.
“Wala, ganun talaga. Medyo na agrabyado tayo sa tawagan. Pero babawi kami next year. We will rebuild this team. Babawi kami,” said Caro, whose team brought home a P75,000 check and a donation pledge of one classroom worth P500,000.
Surigao coach Merio Lagroma, who ironically hails from Claver, said the win was bittersweet.
“Malungkot din po ako kasi taga-Claver ako. Kaso ganun talaga ang basketball. Dito ako sa Surigao ngayon, pinagkatiwalaan nila ako. Kaya ginawa ko lahat para ibigay sa kanila ang korona,” said Lagroma.
The SNBA is a brainchild of former PBA vice-chairman and Powerade Team Pilipinas manager JB Baylon that aims to provide high-level and well-organized basketball tournament to youth in far-flung areas in the provinces.
Baylon bared the SNBA will become an annual event behind the backing of the Hinatuan Nickel Mining Corporation and Taganito HPAL Nickel.
See video highlights of the SNBA finals here: