Cruz, Cunanan show way as GSIS hold off SGV Splash to cop PICPA 2019 title


By John Mark Herrera - Published December 11, 2019

The PICPA-SMMC Basketball Tournament 2019 concluded with a game to remember as GSIS outlasted SGV Splash, 68-58, to bring home the championship, Sunday afternoon at The Upper Deck Lifestyle Center in Ortigas, Pasig City.

Adrian Cruz led the way for the victor with 17 points, 16 rebounds, and two blocks while Randy Cunanan added 24 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.

Right from the start, GSIS caught fire and gained momentum to race to a 25-15 lead after the first quarter. The blue shirts kept their hold of the lead in the second quarter, where Splash, led by Jeonnie Liamzon and Benedict Yu sparked an attempted run to close in, but GSIS kept their composure to remain on top at the half, 40-30.

Come third quarter, the road became tougher for GSIS' quest to completely shut the door on SGV Splash, as the latter proved to be a feisty competitor. A pride-driven storm surge enabled the white shirts to unload an 18-point quarter scoring behind Ericson Tan's lead, to trim the deficit down to just four points, 52-48, entering the payoff period.

But just as the trailers seemed to have found their rhythm, GSIS went berserk in winning time and banked on their defensive prowess midway through the final chapter. The eventual conquerors put an end to SGV Splash's hopes with 16 big points in the last 10 minutes of the game, while holding the opposing team to 10 markers en route to clinching the title.

Adrian Cruz was named as the finals most valuable player after his stellar play on the rebounding aspect, which helped the champions prevail in crucial plays down the stretch. His double-double performance capped off a dream season finish for his team.

The margin of victory may indicate dominance from GSIS' side, the finals MVP bared that they had to go through the extreme pressure of keeping their poise when the opposition got their rhythm.

"Noong naramdaman na namin na papalapit na sila, nag adjust na kami sa depensa, particularly kay Yu, kasi siya yung bumubuhay sakanila." said the hardworking warrior who shot 41% from the field and had six huge offensive boards.

For a team who had no individual awardee, Cruz took pride in his team's balance and their willingness to just play for each other, which he credits as to how he won the individual recognition after their triumphant titular match.

"Hati hati eh. Wala saaming star player, dahil balanced yung attack namin. Mas nanaig yung team play kaysa sa individual play. Etong MVP honor, I offer to my teammates, kasi kung hindi dahil sa kanila, hindi ko makukuha ito."

The first runner-up SGV Splash held their heads high with efforts from Benedict Yu (22 points) and Ericson Tan (17points). Liamzon notched a selection in the mythical five awardees.

Glenn Imperial (Spartans), Ralph Bajamonde (MMR), Gio Miranda (SMMC), and Lito Ingatan (All-Star CPAs) were also named to the exclusive selection. Meanwhile SGV (Gray) won the third place, for a podium finish in their 2019 campaign.