The duo of Jay Casimiro and Jin Han powered the VRM Panthers to their second straight second straight Island Sports Association Senior (35+) title with a thrilling 71-67 victory over Philippines Airlines Sunday afternoon at Yigo gym.
Han dropped seven 3-pointers en route to a 23-point finish, while VRM’s Jay Casamiro finished with 12 points, winning the Senior (35+) Division Most Valuable Player after the game.
“We have a lot of chemistry and a lot of scorers,” said Casimiro after he accepted the trophy. “It’s all about the team though; MVP is nice and I’ll take the trophy for sure, but it’s all about the win.”
The top-seeded Panthers, who finished the season undefeated with a perfect 9-0 record, got a run for their money from the third-seeded PAL and Reggie Rechebong, who lit up the board for 30 points.
A 3 by Rechebong had the Panthers trailing 33-27 late in the first half. But, the Panthers answered back off a Sandy Fejeran jumper and back-to-back treys from Han to make it a one-point game – 34-33 in VRM’s favor.
Rechebong had 15 points in the opening frame to lead all scorers. Fejeran had 13 of his 19 points in the first half to keep the Panthers within striking distance.
Han and the Panthers continued to stay hot, opening the second half with two shots from beyond the arc. Fejeran converted on a fast-break as the Panthers stretched the lead to 42-33, sparking another 8-0 run in the first two minutes of the second half.
The game quickly turned into a defensive battle with the Panthers targeting Rechebong in an effort to slow him down. Han dropped his fourth 3 of the quarter and the seventh of the game to give VRM a 10-point edge, 59-49.
“It’s the championship game, and we knew that was a very good team,” credited Han. “We know we can score, we have guys that can get buckets. So, one thing we are focused on is making stops and trying to make it difficult for the other team to score.”
PAL refused to go away with a mid-range jumper by Faith Thompson and an offensive put-back by Rechebong to cap an 8-0 run of their own, cutting the deficit to 59-57.
Francis Benitez gave the Panthers some breathing room with a nice move down the lane for a bucket and the 68-63 advantage with a minute to play.
Rechebong answered again, splitting his shots from the charity stripe. Teammate Al Jones put away the fast break to make it a one possession game, 68-66, with 29 seconds on the clock.
It came down to free throws down the stretch. Han coolly buried two from the line to push the lead to 70-66.
With just 10 seconds remaining, PAL got a break when Rechebong was fouled on a 3-point attempt. After missing the first and making the second free throw, Rechebong’s second make was wiped away on a lane violation to keep it a three-point game, 70-67.
Casamiro hit split his free throws to secure the 71-67 win and the championship for the Panthers.
“Reg was lighting us up in the first half. … For us, it was rebounding and defense that won this game. We have a lot of chemistry and a lot of scorers, so if we can get stops, we can win,” said Casimiro.
The ISA Masters (50+) Division title went to CAPS Finance for the second straight season, with a 59-49 victory over Tsang Bros in the championship game. Jose Marquez was named MVP for the Masters Division.
Sir Ador took home the ISA Competitive Division championships, knocking back the defending champions, Team Lagman, 52-44 in the final.
ISA President Raffy Advincula extended his appreciation to the Yigo Mayor’s Office and all the team sponsors and players for their support in the seventh season of the ISA Basketball League.