By Louie Razon
The first question you should ask upon reading this article is: which one? Because, from a fortunate set of circumstances, the two schools contesting the WBL Juniors Championship were De La Salle Zobel (DLSZ) and La Salle College Antipolo (LSCA).
This seemed to be an unlikely scenario when the elimination round groupings were released in October. DLSZ and LSCA were both in Group B, ensuring that they would meet each other early in the eliminations. This was to be the two schools meeting this season. Both teams entered their match unbeaten but Zobel was heavily favored after just narrowly losing to Miriam College in the WNCAA Finals. But the girls from Antipolo, never giving up, erased an 8-point DLSZ lead in last minute and a half and ultimately prevailed by two. LSCA would go on to sweep Group 2 while DLSZ wound up second with one loss.
And so, the semifinal pairings saw the two La Salle schools matched up with two perennial powerhouses in women’s sports. It was LSCA versus Assumption College San Lorenzo and DLSZ faced its WNCAA nemesis, Miriam College. As expected, Antipolo kept its slate clean by prevailing over Assumption. In the second semifinal match-up, DLSZ did not waste the opportunity to avenge its two extremely close defeats in the WNCAA finals, beating Miriam College convincingly in a pulse-pounding duel at the Xavier School courts that featured several runs and lead changes. Behind inspired play by Angel Caldo and with its vaunted defense controlling WNCAA MVP Patty Reyes, the Alabang girls came out on top, 51-43.
And, thus the dream finals between the sister schools was set. Sisters or not, though, it was clear that this was going to be a game played with pride and intensity. There would be no trash or dirt, as in all previous games between these schools but LSCA was fully intent on keeping its sweep while DLSZ was eager to erase the hurt of losing its WNCAA crown. Sure enough, both teams made their first two attempts: a two-pointer and a triple each. With 7 min to go in the second quarter, DLSZ clung to a precarious 22-17 lead as LSCA kept pace. Captain Kat Nuñez was firing on all cylinders though and 6’1” center Jamie Roxas was gobbling up all of the rebounds despite nursing a fever. And so the Zobel lead slowly grew to 12 at the half.
In the third, coach Barry Tobias unfurled his suffocating full-court press and LSCA’s very young team was unable to score for a full eight minutes. The lead ballooned to 21 behind the excellent all-around play of senior Angel Caldo, WNCAA Mythical Five member Kristine Teo and rookie Justine Domingo. The victory was hardly in doubt by the fourth quarter, Zobel made sure the end-game collapse did not happen again and the final score was 61-38. WIth five triples and 25 points, Kat Nuñez was fittingly awarded the MVP plum once again. The WBL considers the Sportsmanship Award to be its most important award and this was, fittingly, given to the polite young team from Antipolo.
In the under-13 division, coach Maan Moreno’s little girls defended their WBL crown again in a competitive 6-point victory that they carved over perennial rival, Miriam College.
It’s now back-to-back under-17 titles for the lasses from Alabang. Four seniors are graduating next year so it should be an interesting time for coach Tobias as he tries to make up for their loss while blending in the cream of the grade school team which include WNCAA MVP Marga Jimenez, WBL MVP Bernice Paraiso, point guard Jel Jajurie and center Frances Roxas.