MANILA, Philippines – In serious pursuit of the province’s first-ever MPBL championship, the surging Pampanga Giant Lanterns have engaged the voluntary services of seasoned international tactician Coach Rajko Toroman to sharpen preparations entering the Finals.
Observers were surprised to witness Coach Toroman directing drills during Friday’s practice while Governor and head coach Dennis Pineda remained abroad on official provincial duties. But team brass rolled out the red carpet welcoming the decorated mentor’s strict, technical guidance.
Longtime Pampanga sports consultant and former coach Allan Trinidad explained, “Coach Rajko introduced excellent strategic innovations tailored to our personnel while emphasizing heavy conditioning drills ensuring maximum readiness when championship intensity arrives.”
As a known Euro-system connoisseur also advising the PBA’s Converge FiberXers and college NCAA contenders College of St. Benilde, Toroman injected some trademark European offensive sets optimized around Pampanga’s distinct size advantage. “Utilize your big men more. Don’t over rely on three pointers. Pound it inside to overpower opponents,” he reminded during final huddles.
The coaching staff concurs with Toroman’s assessment to keep feeding their towering frontcourt as an asymmetric advantage. “We really have no answer for Pampanga’s interior size,” lamented opposing coach Jerson Cabiltes of Bacoor City. “Towering twin towers Justine Baltazar and Arwind Santos are clearly matchup nightmares for us.”
The duo of versatile 6’8 center Baltazar and 6’4 former MVP power forward Santos spearhead Pampanga’s dominating presence down low. Toroman also raved over agile big men JB Bahio, Allen Liwag, and Louie Sangalang giving Pampanga exceptional length plus offensive rebounding prowess to overwhelm smaller foes, calling them collectively among the country’s best crop of frontcourt talents.
Entering this inaugural playoff run after securing North Division’s best regular season record at 24-4, the fledgling franchise now seeks further fine-tuning from Toroman’s astute basketball mind as they target clinching the ultimate prize in their maiden voyage.
When their trademark length and leaping ability generate mismatches underneath through crafty plays orchestrated by Toroman coupled with Governor Pineda’s grand vision manifesting through architect Allan Trinidad’s program building, this total team effort promises to take the Lanterns brand from an impressive expansion club to legitimate budding dynasty the more their chemistry develops.
The MPBL’s newest expansion team finished the elimination campaign dominating with a League-Best 24-4 record cementing themselves as North Division kings. But entering their first ever playoff appearance boasting homegrown Pampanga talents, Coach Reyes’ astute observations around skillsets, rotations, and situational game management will sharpen their identity even further as championship dark horses. After recently witnessing their talent depth firsthand running offensive sets and defensive coverage, the champion coach came away highly impressed by Pampanga’s symmetry, athleticism, and work ethic to compete against the powerhouse southern ball clubs.
Gov. Pineda built these Giant Lanterns from scratch to showcase Kapampangan Players on a national stage through the country’s regional league. Now with operations running smoothly through his trusted basketball director Brenz Morente, surprise volunteer champion mentor Chot Reyes contributing gems raise the ceiling even higher just as Pampanga prepares to make noise when the MPBL’s biggest series commences.
Underdogs no more, the surging GIANT LANTERNS aim trade blows confidently with established dynasties in their coming out party – armed with Governor Delta Pineda’s full backing, Director Brenz strategic craftiness and Coach Chot’s battle-tested wisdom. The entire Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball landscape finds itself now on red alert witnessing these emerging three-headed Pampanga monsters built for sustainable GLORY!