Jazzville lit up the scoreboard from beyond the arc to crush TJ Dark Knights 88-64 and lift the PBBL-Western Union Season 13 Cup at Asma Bint Al Nouman Gym in Dubai.
Chris Elopre, who was adjudged Final MVP, exemplified Jazzville’s hot shooting with his almost perfect showing from the three-point area, making five of six attempts, to lead his team with 21 points.
He was also effective in ball distribution and filled up the stat sheet with a double-double performance after dishing out 11 assists.
Season MVP Jake Antonio also had a productive night, contributing 17 points, including three triples and five rebounds. Sam Perez made two three-pointers and finished with 14 markers while Ton Eligado and Von Gile added 12 and 10 points respectively.
TJ Dark Knights staged a short rally in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter but Elopre and Antonio quickly doused the rally with back-to-back triples en route to a big 24-point winning margin.
“We had a slow start but we worked on our defence and forced our opponents to commit numerous turnovers,” Jazzville coach Roland Crisostomo said. “Our outside shooting was lethal but we also had good ball movement and we always found the open man.”
“Winning the championship can be attributed to our fine work ethic – we hold team practice regularly,” added Crisostomo, whose team never experienced a defeat since the elimination round.”
For his part, TJ Dark Knights team captain Winston Lopez said: “We were not able to sustain the lead we built in the first quarter because we were caught flat-footed by Jazzville’s defence and suddenly our outside shooting went dry.”
Lopez and Enrico Bawic led TJ Dark Knights with 11 points each while Mark Bautista and Reydan Mabilog added 10 apiece.
Very few recreational basketball players get the opportunity to train with a professional club, but that’s exactly what Max Klein was fortunate enough to experience with OKK Celik Zenica.
Recreational’ does somewhat of a disservice to the 26-year-old, who does one-on-one training twice a week with Basicball Academy in Dubai.
Thanks to a new partnership signed between the academy and OKK Celik Zenica, Klein was allowed to practice with the Bosnia and Herzegovina team from December 14-23.
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The club had a previous connection to Basicball with the academy’s founder, Zoran Savic, as well operations manager Dzevad Alihodzic, being former players.
Klein couldn’t play in the team’s games, but he went through the rest of the training, which included two-a-day practices, scrimmages and hitting the gym.
“I went there wanting to see what it was like, not with too much expectations,” Klein said.
“In terms of practices and drills, it wasn’t anything surprising but it was just good getting back in the habit of playing with real solid guys.”
There’s a reason why Klein wasn’t too surprised with the nature of his training.
Since moving to Dubai in 2001, Klein, whose mother is American and father is Peruvian, has progressed relatively far in the sport.
After attending American School of Dubai where he enjoyed his high school basketball career, Klein went to college at the University of Arizona before transferring north of the border to the University of Waterloo in Canada.
There, he played on the basketball team in his final year, reaching the level just before professional.
Yet, for all his background in the sport, Klein admitted there was a bit of a learning curve with Zenica when it came to certain aspects of his game.
“I think it made me realise I need to work on my ball-handling,” he said. “The problem I had growing up in Dubai, being 6’6”, I played centre.
“Even at my university in Canada, we were a small team so I was playing at the four (power forward) or five (centre). I was always used to getting the ball down low, doing one or two quick moves and going to the basket.
“When I went to play with Zenica, I remember the first day I walked into the locker room – the average age is 19 which is really young for a pro team – I looked around and thought ‘okay this is going to be pretty easy’. Then everyone stood up and all but two guys were either my height or taller.
“So all of a sudden I’m training with guards and doing ball-handling and shooting drills, doing more from the outside. It was an eye-opening experience.”
Okk Celik Zenica did a nice job revitalizing their roster adding Dino Hodzic, Tomko Sokolov and new coach Mladen… http://t.co/zuIwzInLaN
— chris mathieu (@mathieu_chris) January 5, 2015
There’s no doubt that becoming a professional athlete gets harder the older you get, but at the age of 26, Klein isn’t ruling out a leap to the pros, especially in Europe.
“I’ve always thought of playing at a professional level,” he said.
“Luckily for me, I work in finance and have a good job so things are okay there. I was thinking if things don’t pan out in the next year, something changes or maybe I start hating what I do, then I want to keep that option open.”
In terms of the sport’s development in the UAE, Klein has seen first-hand how far it has come and how much it continues to grow.
“I think basketball has drastically improved, it’s gotten three, four times better than it was,” Klein said.
“It’s just the education and I think it’s getting there. Hopefully Dubai can be a hub for Middle Eastern basketball.”
Former PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) player Jonathan Fernandez played Santa and handed his Al Ain-based team Kabayan Gents Tailoring a 56-53 win over McFearin Tailoring in Jazzville Basketball League at the Jumeira Baccalaureate School Dubai on Friday, Christmas Day.
Fernandez, who suited up for Purefoods in the PBA, turned in a vintage performance, top-scoring with 22 points including three triples.
He also grabbed nine rebounds and was a vital cog in Kabayan Gents’ interior defence. He was supported by Edwin Manabat, Roy Cayanan and Wowie Kadir who contributed eight points each.
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Skipper Archie Cruz and shooting guard Paul Buenafe led McFearin with combined 28 points while Rommel Caberte and Melvin Faustino added nine and five points respectively.
Although both teams started slow and struggled with their offence in the opening minutes, McFearin took a one-point lead, 10-9, at the end of the first quarter courtesy of two triples by Cruz.
But the game changed in the second quarter after Kabayan Gents made some adjustments and implemented a running game. Fernandez also found his outside shooting and converted three triples to give his team the driver’s seat, 27-25, at the half.
It was a nip and tuck affair in the third period with both teams exchanging baskets and playing good defence but Kabayan Gents maintained their hold of the lead, 41-39, going into the final quarter.
Kabayan Gents enjoyed a five-point lead, 54-49, in the closing minute but Cruz of McFearin kept it close with his three free throws and set the scores 54-52.
McFearin then forced Kabayan to commit a couple of turnovers but they failed to convert these into points as Fernandez, who was declared best player of the game, sealed the win for Kabayan Gents from the free throw line and gave his team their second straight victory in the tournament.
“Fernandez played Santa for the team and the win was a nice Christmas gift for everyone,” Kabayan Gents coach Jason Umali toldSport360.
Meanwhile, Jerry Mendez and Marlon Bernal scored 18 and 11 points respectively to lead Perfect Fit Tailoring to a 69-64 win over Ican Customised Apparel.