By: Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
With their last win against powerhouse Manila and currently on a roll winning three in a row, no doubt this Iloilo United Royals team is for real.
The past weeks, Iloilo seemed to let loose their grip in games they should have won. Chatter soon followed the team on how they seemed to crack under the pressure, particularly in the clutch.
With things getting out of hand, coach Eric Gonzales did a wonderful job of helping his team bounce back from adversity by doing crucial adjustments in his roster rotation.
With the adjustments made, Iloilo is now in a favorable position to compete for the playoffs, winning three consecutive games including a stunning win against top-seeded Manila Stars Frontrow.
Coach Gonzales’ “lineup shuffle” wasn’t only done to surprise opponents, but they were precise shifting of personnel which also brought about a shift in mentality.
Notice that in all of Iloilo’s past games they lost they consistently stuck with the same starting five and rotation, that stubbornness only gave them heartbreak and disappointment.
Now, the crucial adjustment made in the rotation is not only giving them success but also providing tangible evidence that this team can compete and win against high tier teams despite being rookies in the league.
Cedric De Joya’s added playing time proved to be one of the more effective moves the coaching staff made. Time and time again De Joya provided energy, giving the lineup on the floor a much needed boost every time he comes in. De Joya’s speed and fearlessness blends perfectly with coach Eric’s run-and-gun scheme.
Ilonggo Aaron Jeruta is also a major factor in Iloilo’s turnaround. Jeruta’s increased toughness garnered him back-to-back player of the game honors. All this, while accepting his new role of coming off the bench after being a starter in previous games.
Furthermore, Donald Gumaru’s increased role is also a big help for the team, with his three-point shooting and relentless physical defense on display with added playing time.
John Mahari’s sacrifice for lesser playing time is also a sign of willingness to win for the team, as his minutes dropped down to give way to Gumaru.
Samboy De Leon, now with an increased role as one of the shot makers of the team, improved his shooting efficiency as well as his shot selection.
The main gunner of the team, Richard Escoto, also accepted a bench role, allowing coach Gonzales to tinker with his big man rotation.
With Iloilo’s cohesiveness and chemistry improving with each game, expect them to be a dark horse in this year’s MPBL Lakan Season.