SUBIC Freeport Zone — Had the Game 3 decider between the Davao Occidental Tigers and the Basilan Steel pushed through last year, it would have been a tossup.
Under the current situation, however, the Tigers have been installed the slight favorites to beat the Steel on March 17 and capture the South Division crown of the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season.
The Tigers do not only have an intact roster, they have the benefit of practicing together at the Subic Bay gym here
The Steel, on the other hand, are on quarantine after two of their players tested positive for COVID-19 and were moved out of the bubble here.
In addition, the Steel have heavy mental baggage as they stand to forfeit the decider if ever one of them tests positive during the re-swab on March 16.
But don’t tell that to Mark Yee, the Tigers’ go-to-guy and chief motivator.
Yee believes the Steel will still be hard to pound.
“We shouldn’t be complacent,” said Yee in Filipino. “We must respect our opponents.”
According to Yee, who played through a partial ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear and a torn calf to help lift the Tigers to the South finals last year, the Steel are surely working out via zoom and should offer stiff resistance.
Other than the two players who tested positive, Basilan will also be missing Gilas Cadet Allyn Bulanadi, who’s still recovering from right shoulder surgery.
The Steel also have a falling out with team management and nearly did not enter the bubble.
In contrast, the Cocolife-backed Tigers have been well-supported by the management throughout the lockdowns.“We are so blessed,” said Yee.
This was confirmed by Tigers assistant coach Manu Inigo.
“The players are all healthy, in high spirits, and ready to play,” said Inigo, also the head coach of the San Beda Red Cubs.