FEU-NRMF-Gerry’s Grill crowned itself as the 2016 MBL Open (Second Conference) basketball champion.
FEU-NRMF finished off Emilio Aguinaldo College with several long scoring splurges to hammer out a convincing 103-83 win and capture the title before a big afternoon crowd at the EAC Sports Center in Ermita, Manila.
Christian Manalo and Fil-Canadian sensation Clay Crellin led the scoring parade for FEU-NRMF, which brought home its first-ever MBL title in its first year of participation.
Manalo topscored with 22 points, while Crellin, who was named as Most Valuable Player, added 19 points to power FEU-NRMF to the championship in the tournament supported by Smart Sports, Ironcon Builders, Star Bread, Dickies Underwear and Gerry’s Grill.
FEU-NRMF manager Nino Reyes and coaches Pido Jarencio, Bonnie Tan and Beaujing Acot received the championship trophy from former PBA coach Arturo Valenzona after the game.
“Thank God we're the MBL champions now. The players really worked hard for it,” said Reyes.
Ex-PBA star Jerwin Gaco also shone brightest for the Fairview, Quezon City-based team with 15 points, taking his younger EAC defenders to school with his veteran moves in and around the shaded area.
Gaco, easily one of the crowd favorites, scored 10 points in the third and fourth periods to help FEU-NRMF frustrate repeated rallies by EAC.
Also providing a strong presence in the shaded area were imports Bright Akhuetie and Moustapha Arafat, who added 17 and nine points, respectively.
Akhuetie, one of the most-sought after collegiate players from Nigeria, and Arafat used their tremendous height advantage to scare away the Generals and force them to make low-percentage shots.
The two towering African imports also provided the showtime plays for FEU-NRMF to the delight of the pro-EAC crowd which came to cheer the home team.
Despite the loss, EAC earned a lot of respect with its runner-up finish and a 5-3 win-loss record in the tournament serving as part of its pre-NCAA season buildup.
Sidney Onwubere, Hamadou Laminou, Juju Bautista, Jerome Garcia and Jeanu Gano shared scoring honors for the Generals of coach Ariel Sison and assistant coach Bong Melocoton.
Onwubere finished with 19 points for the Generals, who also surpassed their fourth-place finish in the MBL First Conference last May.
Philippine Air Force, one of only two teams which defeated FEU-NRMF, finished third overall.
The MBL is headed by businessman-sportsman Alex Wang of Wang’s Ballclub..
FEU-NRMF-Gerry’s Grill (103) -- Manalo 22, Crellin 19, Akhuetie 17, Gaco 15, Raymundo 10, Arafat 9, Banzali 5, Camacho 4, Zamora 2, Tan 0, Asoro 0.
EAC (83) -- Onwubere 19, Laminou 14, Bautista 10, Garcia 9, Gano 9, Aguas 5, Bugarin 5, Diego 5, Mendoza 3, Altiche 2, Martin 2.
Quarterscores: 29-12, 55-40, 82-65, 103-83.