By Henry Liao(XS ‘72)
High-school powerhouse Xavier School made history in the just-concluded 39th Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Association tournament after annexing the Aspirants and Juniors Division titles this season.
The Golden Stallions became the first team in Tiong Lian annals to capture both championships in the same campaign in two consecutive years.
Overall, it marked the fifth time that there was a double-championship winner. Chiang Kai Shek College was the first to accomplish the feat in 1991 and Xavier School also turned in the same trick in 2003, 2006, 2008 and this year.
Xavier School won its second straight title - and third championship in four years - in the Juniors Division (for players age 15 and above) after outclassing St. Jude Catholic School, 116-74 and 83-69, in the best-of-three finals.
Newly-appointed Philippines Sports Commission chair Harry Ang Ping, a Xavier alumnus, showed up for the finals’ Game One at the Uno Gym.
Former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) No. 1 overall draft selections Joe Devance (2007, now with Alaska) and Gabe Norwood (2008, now with Rain or Shine) and several members of the De La Salle women’s college basketball team also were in attendance in Game Two.
In the series-ending Game Two, Xavier led nearly throughout. The Golden Stallions trailed only in the first few minutes, falling behind 7-4 before knocking in seven straight points to move ahead, 11-7. Xavier never trailed thereafter. Quarter scores: 14-11, 31-21, 61-44 and 83-69.
St. Jude came no closer than six points in the second half, putting together a 7-0 run (from 41-28) early in the third quarter to come within 41-35. Xavier, though, outscored the Judenites, 20-9, for the rest of the third quarter to enjoy a 61-44 advantage entering the payoff period.
Xavier was ahead by at least 10 points in the entire fourth quarter and led by as much as 21 on two occasions (73-52 and 75-54).
Prolific Jeric Teng collected 31 points (8-27 FG, 14-18 FT shooting), 13 rebounds and three assists for Xavier. Ian Umali, a senior like Teng, got 19 points. Jeron Teng, the younger son of former PBA frontliner Alvin Teng, added 13 markers (all in the second half) and 10 boards for the Golden Stallions.
Kim Lo, a junior forward-center, had a monstrous performance for St. Jude with 22 points and 21 boards. Reed-thin guard Jason Ligad connected on five three-pointers and totaled 19 points for the first-time Tiong Lian finalists. Derrence Lam was limited to nine markers.
The Golden Stallions also maintained its title stranglehold in the Aspirants Division (for players age 14 and under), collecting its seventh consecutive crown with a 2-1 decision over elimination-round frontliner Chiang Kai Shek College in the best-of-three finals.
In the decisive third contest, Xavier registered a 74-65 decision over CKSC. Xavier took the series opener, 82-76, but CKSC bounced back to take Game Two, 76-70.
Stallions skipper Kyle Lao, a 5-10, seventh-grader, averaged a tournament-best 25.9 points in nine games. The 13-year-old Lao was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in the Aspirants Division.
In the Girls’ High School Division, Chiang Kai Shek College retained the title against host Uno High School.
In the Cheerleading competitions, St. Jude Catholic School emerged as the champion for the fourth consecutive year.
For Xavier, the Juniors title was its eighth overall following title successes in 1972, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2008. The Gold and Blue thus equaled St. Stephen’s High School for the second most number of championships in Tiong Lian history. Chiang Kai Shek College, with 14, is tops on the all-time list.
Two-time TL scoring leader Jeric Teng scored 31 points in each of the two championship-series games against St. Jude Catholic School. He was subsequently was voted the league’s MVP after hitting at a 39.3-point clip during the tournament.
Coach Joselito Vergara’s troops won all their nine assignments in the seven-school competitions, duplicating the feat of their 2006 counterparts who also went 9-0 behind Woody Co, who is now with the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).
It was a very rewarding 2008-09 campaign for the Xavier Juniors, which earlier grabbed a third straight title in the San Juan Inter-High School tournament and secured the Philippine Athletic Youth Association (PAYA) crown for the third year in a row.
The 6-1 Teng also was a back-to-back MVP awardee in the San Juan tourney. A senior, the son of former PBA strongman Alvin Teng is reportedly headed to either University of Santo Tomas or Ateneo de Manila University in the UAAP in July this year.
Congratulations to the Xavier Juniors and Aspirants Basketball Teams!