The Yukon Pinoy Basketball League wrapped up with a finger lickin’ good final on Sunday.
Team KFC captured their third title in four years in a thrilling 91-86 win over Usana at F.H. Collins Secondary School.
KFC was bolstered by strong outside shooting, increasingly tight defence and an enthusiastic cheering section, whose screams could shatter glass.
“It’s all about defence,” said KFC captain and coach Wren Agapito. “They know that defence wins games and defence wins championships. That’s what we did tonight and we stopped them every time they got the ball and our offence just followed with that.”
KFC opened the game with three-point sharpshooting. Jonathan Labuguen notched nine points and James Labuguen six from beyond the arc in the first quarter.
But the Colonel Sanders squad won the fourth quarter with free throws. Tied 74-74, James sunk two from the line for 76-74 – taking the lead for the last time – before teammate Aaron Diaz hit four in a row in two separate trips to the free-throw line to make it 84-78.
“They were in foul trouble … pretty much all of them had four (or) three fouls, so we had to go inside,” said Agapito. “The more we go inside, we can get fouls.”
The strategy put a dent in Usana’s offence. Usana’s E.G. New and J.B. New, who combined for 26 points in the final, fouled out in the fourth quarter as KFC drove through the paint.
“We committed a lot of fouls, especially our key players, and that was the turning point in the ball game,” said Usana captain Joesel Rumbaoa. “We lost our big man, E.G. New, and J.B. New, and we cannot do our game plan without them.
“That’s the ball game, we lost, better luck next time.”
KFC, who also won the title in 2012 and 2013, finished first ahead of Usana in second, at the end of the regular season. Usana beat KFC by a point the previous weekend to force Sunday’s deciding game in the best-of-three series.
While the Labuguens were hitting three-pointers – six in total in the first half – Usana was putting their speed to good use. Usana capitalized on half a dozen fast breaks in the first half.
“In the first half, that was some of our worst defence – we just let go of the ball,” said Agapito. “They did their fast breaks so many times and we couldn’t catch up with them.”
The Colonel crew led for almost all of the first half, finishing the first quarter up 24-21, before Usana snuck in front in the final seconds. Usana’s Kenneth Valdez put in a rebound on a shot from E.G. for a 45-44 lead at the buzzer.
Usana expanded the gap to 53-46 in a pair of jumpers from J.B. They finished the third with another one-point lead at 64-63 on a pair of free throws from Ian New, who led his team with 27 points.
Diaz led the way for KFC with 29 points and was named Player of the Game.
“He’s pretty much doing everything,” said Agapito. “Rebounding, blocking shots, making shots and doing fast breaks. For me, he’s really Player of the Game tonight, for sure.”
Other top scorers for KFC include James Labuguen with 17 points and John Apostol with 14.
The Pinoy league, which was founded in 2007, is hosting an All-Star game on May 16 at the F.H. Collins school. The action starts at 5:30 p.m.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org