PBL  FETES  PACQUIAO  IN  UNITY  CUP  RITES

MANILA, March 30, 2005 
(STAR) By Joey Villar  -  Montaña opens its back-to-back title bid against newcomer but fancied Harbour Center as the Philippine Basketball League unveils its 22nd season with the staging of the PBL Unity Cup on Saturday at the Makati Coliseum.

Spicing up the opening is the conferral of ‘Gawad ng Kagitingan’ award to boxing idol Manny Pacquiao for his losing but gallant stand against Erik Morales in their recent blockbuster super-featherweight fight in Las Vegas.

"Even though he lost, Manny (Pacquiao) made us really proud and in our hearts, he’s still our champion," said PBL commissioner Chino Trinidad in the weekly PSA Forum at the Manila Pavilion. He was accompanied by deputy commissioner Tommy Ong and executive assistant Butch Maniego.

"And for that, it’s only fitting that we in the PBL recognize his heroism and be an example not just to boxers but also to aspiring basketball players as well," he added.

Trinidad said he will personally invite Pacquiao for him to receive the award, and at the same time be the special guest in the season-opening tournament.

This marks the second time the PBL is honoring a Filipino athlete for exemplary showing in an international competition after Olympian and taekwondo jin Mary Antoinette Rivero in the last Open championship.

Meanwhile, Granny Goose and Bacchus Energy Drink clash in the 2 p.m. opener.

Other participating teams are Welcoat Paints-St. Benilde, Toyota Otis-Letran, Magnolia Ice Cream-Far Eastern University and another rookie squad Negros Navigation Co. (Nenaco), which will field an all-San Beda squad.

"This is going to be a quick and exciting tournament especially with new teams like Harbour Centre and Nenaco-San Beda getting into the picture," said Trinidad.

No change in format has been made, with the top two teams at the end of the eliminations earning outright berth in the semis and the other two at the bottom getting eliminated.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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