Two Division of Youth Services-sponsored teams had resounding success in the 2012 UFO Docomo Pacific Cup and their respective coaches looked back at how the squads ruled the U14 and U20 divisions of the youth caging.
Abner Venus, who called the shots for the DYS/SMF U14 team that routed VisMinda-Hi-Five in the finals early this month, 114-44, said he right away thought of fielding a championship-caliber team in the youth league and through the help of DYS and Garapan Rollers coach Joe Diaz, he was able to get the players he desired.
“I borrowed Joe Diaz's Rollers players. It was an almost complete team, we have the height, speed, and talent. The only problem that I thought of then was will they play for a different coach, for me,” Venus said.
However, the players gave me no problem. They showed up in practices and games and did what they were told to do. Everyone was given playing time and each contributed either on offense and defense,” the DYS/SMF coach said.
Venus said eventual MVP JP Iglecias lived up to expectations, providing leadership on the team, while CJ Morales was a big offensive threat with his ability to shoot both long and short jumpers. Mobile big man Djay Ong was a force inside and at one point scored 33 markers in the regular season and dominated the rebounding department, while off guard Sam Darag led the team's fastbreak plays. Mike Espinosa and Jun Fidelino completed DYS/SMF's formidable frontline, with the former causing problems to opposing team's attackers with his shot-blocking skills.
DYS/SMF bench was as deep as its starters, too, with the sixth man Fidelino picking up most of the offensive boards and loose balls for the team's second, third, and even fourth-chance points. Other DYS/SMF relievers who gave quality minutes every time they were on the floor were Mark Venus, Alcor Atmana, Joel Subang, Adrian de Luna, Roy Venezuela, and John Cano.
“Because of the talent of these kids, we were able to do our run and gun game and at the same time used our full court press to crush our opponents. With UFO's ground rules stating that every player has to play every quarter, I was able to use different player combinations,” said Venus, who thanked DYS' Laura Ogumoro, the Rollers' Diaz and Verna Babauta, James Venus, and Nona Lizama for supporting the U14 champion team.
DYS had a double celebration during the awards ceremony for the UFO caging as its U20 team also won a championship after a come-from-behind win over MDX/Armatech, 74-69.
The DYS/Bayani was about two minutes away from losing the U20 crown as it faced a 64-69 deficit. However, coach Omar Ajoste's wards remained focus and managed to pull off one of the best comebacks in the history of UFO.
“Focus was one of my four pointers to our players. The three others were trust, commitment and communication,” Ajoste said. “
“I and my players did not panic. I never lose hope because I trusted them and I knew they will play even harder in the last two minutes of the game. Two minutes are still a lot of time and we just needed to play tough defense to force turnovers,” he added.
DYS/Bayani did make defensive stops in the ensuing plays, while Jaymark De Guzman and Jimmy Tudela took care of business on the offensive end to give the team the U20 title.
“My players fought until the end and made those crucial stops and shots. Overall, it was our defense that carried us to the championship. Offense wins games, defense wins championships. Offense is easy to learn and defense is harder to teach,” said Omar, who also thanked DYS for supporting his team that were made up of the core of the CNMI U17 Nationals.