By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Iloilo United Royals outlasted the Negros Muscovados in a tightly-contested battle between Western Visayas teams, 83-77, in the first game of the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Invitational tournament.
Despite the revamped pool of players in the United Royals’ roster, the ball movement and the toughness head coach Eric Gonzales instilled in the team was still evident in the hard-earned win.
Chito Jaime put on a show for Iloilo as the newly-acquired former PBA veteran was quick to introduce himself with a game-high 18 points on an efficient 7/13 shooting from the field.
Jaime used all his tricks to find ways to put the leather into the hoop and became Iloilo’s go-to-guy when they badly needed a field goal.
Homegrown Ilonggo point guard and one of the pioneer Iloilo players Aaron Jeruta also contributed big time in the win and finished the ball game with 12 points, six assists, and four rebounds.
Jeruta’s knowledge of the United Royals’ system made it easier for the team as he just controlled the game’s tempo and dictated the pace in their favor.
Newcomer Gelo Vito also made his presence felt after hitting the dagger trey off a Jeruta assist with 52 seconds left in the final canto to extend their lead to 10, 83-73.
The United Royals will seek to extend their winning streak to two as they face the Pasig Sta. Lucia Realtors today at 2:30 PM.