The newly formed iECO Green Warriors are slowly finding their identity after playing three tuneup games against established competition ahead of their Asia League Terrific 12 campaign.
Bankrolled by Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) team Blackwater Elite owner Dioceldo Sy, the Green Warriors are set to join 11 elite professional teams from China, South Korea, Japan, and Chinese Taipei in the Macau-based tournament. Apart from the Macau tournament, the team is also reportedly interested to join the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) for the long-term.
The Philippine’s lone representative only started to practice together over a week ago, and had previously lost by an average margin of 18 against the National Team selection and PBA team Meralco Bolts.
In their third scrimmage game this weak, iECO jumped right out of the gate and started out strong against affiliate-team Blackwater Elite, ending the opening quarter with a 23-12 lead.
Even though Blackwater slowly gained momentum in the second quarter, the newcomers were still leading at the half, 50-46, shortly before the game was called off after a part of the roof at the Meralco Gym started leaking due by an ongoing tropical storm.
“First tuneup game that the team is complete,” said head coach Ariel Vanguardia. “We haven’t had a complete roster. Gab Banal had a commitment last week for a 3×3 competition in Shanghai, Avery Scharer arrived just last Saturday, and Ron Dennison was sick last weekend. Sam Logwood was also accidentally hit on the thigh in the game versus the national team by (Beau) Belga so he had to sit out against Meralco.”
The Green Warriors enlisted imports Logwood and Richard Howell to anchor the paint are imports, and will be led in the backcourt by the Filipino-American backcourt tandem of Avery Scharer and Joshua Munzon, both of whom previously played in the ABL and Thai professional leagues.
Blackwater Elite players Gabriel Banal, James Sena, Mark Cruz have also been loaned to help carry the load for the Green Warriors, while Jai Reyes, Matt Salem, Kristoffer Porter, Kyle Toth, and Ron Dennison completes the squad.
“We were also up versus the National Team and Meralco in both (previous) tuneups we had, but we fell short in the fourth quarter,” Vanguardia lemented. “But slowly, the team is developing chemistry. Hopefully we can continue to develop our mental toughness in handling adversity.”
Guard Joshua Munzon also sees improvements, but admits the team is still figuring things out on the court.
“It was cool, coach throwing out different lines ups trying to see different things. I liked the direction the game was headed in,” said Munzon. “It was a another step in the right direction. We have one more tune up on Saturday, so hopefully we get to play a whole game.”
IECO will have an entire weekend to continue fine-tune the squad before flying out to Macau, where they will have their hands full trying to advance to the knockout playoff round after being grouped with Chinese Basketball Association quarterfinalists Xinjiang Flying Tigers and B.League semi-finalists Ryukyu Golden Kings of Japan.
The Green Warriors play one final tuneup match on Saturday against PBA team NLEX Road Warriors, and is set open their Asia League Terrific 12 campaign against Japanese club Ryukyu Golden Kings at the Macau Studio City Event Center on September 18 at 19:00 (+8 GMT).
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