Super? M. Lhuillier shoots for a ‘Sweep 21’

Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba, our Cebu City Councilor, is the most famous and triumphant coach in our land’s basketball history. Back in 1986, he started coaching for Michel Lhuillier and his cluster of basketball teams. Since then, he’s won 350… 650… possibly thousands… of games during the 23-year span. Recently, Coach Yayoy and his M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala team won 20 games in a row.

He should be smiling and contented and feeling super, right? Wrong. Yesterday afternoon, when I spoke to Alcoseba for a brief, six-minute phone interview, he sounded dissatisfied. He didn’t sound super. And don’t all super-achievers—those who endlessly win and win—always seem to have an insatiable appetite for not being satisfied?

“We were embarrassed in the last championship,” he said. That last championship, of course, was Game 5 of the Liga Pilipinas finals. That was the previous “Conference 2” tournament. Right here at home—at a city where the Lhuillier franchise rarely loses—Coach Yayoy’s squad lost to Misamis Oriental. “We’re hungry now. Today, it’s pay back time in front of the Cebuanos.”

What about the 20-game Liga winning streak in the current Conference 3? “’I told the players, ‘We’re not thinking of records. What’s important is to win. To win the national championship,” he said. The coach is right. Yayoy asked his players not to focus on their past successes but to target one game. Just one game.

The tournament? The 2009 Smart-Liga Pilipinas Super Leg. This event is on its third conference—with Lhuillier winning the first leg and Mis-Or, the second.

Still, to the ordinary fan, what makes the championship game exciting is this: Yayoy Alcoseba’s quest for 21 straight victories. When I asked him yesterday if he had an easy or difficult path winning all 20 games, he laughed. “None of the games were easy. Of course they were tough. We had plenty that were difficult.”

The Super Leg format is a first for the Liga. “Super Leg is copied from the European style of basketball. After a series of legs, it’s a best-of-five format where the teams go to one place and again play the elimination round. Then, the No. 1 has a bye, the numbers two and three play a knockout game. This format is much better for us. It means less traveling. Less expenses. It’s good for the teams.”

The M. Lhuillier squad has five ex-PBA players on it’s roster: Marlon Basco, Bruce Dacia, Mark Magsumbol, Stephen Padilla and Abby Santos. I asked about Mark Magsumbol, a new entry to the Lhuillier squad, and the husband of top sportswriter Caecent No-ot of The Freeman.

“Mark is a very big thing for us,” he said. “He’s helping us in the number three spot. He’s been scoring in double figures. Plus, he’s helping a lot on the defensive side.”

Don’t miss the final at 6 tonight, Cebu Coliseum.

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