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CNMI: Visminda finally answers the call - Dec 28, 2003

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It was nothing short of a storybook ending for Visminda-Country House in the 2003 UFO Miller Lite Cup.
Visminda capped off an astounding season with a championship when they stopped a gallant Cabalen-RP Construction crew dead on their tracks, 118-115, in overtime last Sunday at a packed Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
Although the Nel Atalig-supported team had two games to take home the title, Visminda coach Boy Garcia was relieved his boys settled the issue then and there.
"Don't get me wrong, I was happy with the twice-to-beat advantage, but coming in as the favored team does have its disadvantages. The game last Sunday was proof of that. Cabalen was fighting for dear life and they forced overtime. Luckily for us, our players made all the key plays in the extra period," he said.
Going into the finals, Garcia's Visminda team already was at a disadvantage. Absences and injuries had decimated his 12-man lineup to just nine healthy players, which including himself.
Last year's MVP Danny Bicera, who played sparingly in the regular season and playoffs on account of a gimpy knee, went home to the Philippines. His frontcourt partner, Emil de Belen, also was indisposed after sustaining a sprained ankle in a practice game the night before.
Curiously, however, instead of implementing a slowdown game to conserve the energy of his players, Garcia ordered his team to explode from the gates and dictate the tempo from the get-go.
That resulted in Visminda controlling the first quarter, 28-15. But Cabalen would regain their balance in the second and cut their deficit to 39-42 at halftime. And then came their big push in the third, which gave Cabalen the driver's seat at 69-66 with a quarter to go in the ballgame.
Garcia blamed foul trouble on veteran Dado Vistal as the cause for Visminda's retreat in the second and third quarters. With the former semi-pro riding the bench, Cabalen made a killing on their patented drive-and-draw play with youngster Ryan Mendoza making the most damage.
But come the fourth, Garcia reinserted Vistal back in the lineup and instructed his team to change their defensive assignments. In place of a zone where Vistal guarded the left side of the post, Garcia swung Vistal to the center and let 6'3" Ed Cosino man the critical spot with defensive whiz Jawn Joyner on the opposite flank.
The adjustment worked wonders and Visminda finally wrestled back the lead until four free throws off rainbow attempts by Ronald Delos Reyes and Paul Magcalas gave Cabalen back the lead.
Fortunately again for Garcia, Vistal managed to fish a foul off Delos Reyes in a desperate play and made one out of two free throws to force overtime.
In the extra period, Garcia knew the win was already in the bag when Visminda made their first three attempts. Garcia also helped his team's cause on the floor, sinking a pressure-packed side jumper that was sandwiched between two triples from regular season MVP Fernando "Pando" Muleta and Vistal.
And then there was the expert marksmanship of championship MVP Banjo Basila from the 15-foot line. Going six-for-six in overtime, Basila also delivered the coup de grace when he scooted down for a layup and then dished off to an open Bernard Montano in the dying second of the ballgame.
"I would like to thank my players, our supporters, the management of Country House and our manager Nel Atalig for making all these possible," said an ecstatic Garcia after the game.
The rest of the Visminda team is made up of assistant coach Arnel Caro, sharpshooter Rey Uy, reliable role player Arman Anasan, third-string playmaker Arnold Vega, and Jun Fidelecio.

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