FIRST BLOGGED: FEBRUARY 22, 2008
More than a decade ago, I blogged about Boyet Fernandez and the Sta. Lucia Realtors.
Needless to say, they were awesome. Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes are white-hot stars and Dennis Espino, Marlou Aquino, and Paolo Mendoza were joined by Denok Miranda, Joseph Yeo, and Nelbert Omolon.
Coming to the league in 1993, the Realtors are gunning for their second league title against the established Purefoods TJ Giants coached by Ryan Gregorio and bannered by a formidable starting five comprised of James Yap, Kerby Raymundo, Peter June Simon, Roger Yap, and Marc Pingris.
Drafted seventh in the 1993 Draft, Boyet Fernandez’s PBA stint had its ups and downs. He started his PBA career on the injured list. His knee brace was been a constant in his career. And yeah, despite his talent to knock down triples, he often served as trade bait.
I guess his best years were played with Purefoods - the team he's facing in the 2007-08 PBA Philippine Cup.
Everyone was shocked when Fernandez got the coaching nod when Alfrancis Chua resigned. Adonis Tierra should have had his long-overdue break. Tierra was part of Norman Black's coaching staff that gave the franchise its first-ever title. Prior to being Black's chief deputy, Tierra has had interim deputy stints with the team.
Sta. Lucia won their first-ever title after they swapped Jun Limpot for Marlou Aquino. Dennis Espino, Paolo Mendoza, Chris Tan, and Finals MVP Gerard Francisco were also part of the squad.
Fernandez’s entry to the team though was an overhaul of sorts. Inserted to the nucleus were Joseph Yeo and Denok Miranda.
The Realtors finally solved the bench void they suffered when they decided to trade the rights to Brandon Lee Cablay for Kenneth Duremdes. The former MVP is an offer they couldn't refuse but his hefty price tag also sent a lot of their stars to other teams. An example of this was sending Marvin Ortiguerra, Omanzie Rodriguez, and Gherome Ejercito to the Air21 Express for salary cap relief.
Often injured, Duremdes was traded to the Coca-Cola Tigers alongside Mark Isip and Alex Cabagnot. Their replacements - Yeo and Miranda - welcomed the challenge of taking the Realtors to the next level.
In 2006, Sta. Lucia decided to take a chance when they picked Kelly Williams over Arwind Santos. Two years prior, Sta. Lucia was able to select Nelbert Omolon in the first round of the 2004 PBA Draft. And in 2007, Ryan Reyes was chosen over Ateneo stars JC Intal and Doug Kramer.
Sta. Lucia could have had Miranda but instead selected Cabagnot over the FEU star. The Realtors' fear of Fil-Am stemmed when Robert Parker came in with so much fanfare only to leave with a lot of unpaid bills. Cabagnot allegedly also had issues with the SLR management during his rookie year.
Whether or not it was right for the Realtors to select Williams over Arwind Santos... Boyet Fernandez made this version of the Sta. Lucia Realtors HIS team.
Their defense was their safe haven. Even Paolo Mendoza tried his luck on defense. Joseph Yeo, fresh from a bad rep that happened when he struck Enrico Villanueva with a vicious clothesline, was also leading the team in assists! Also, it felt as if Yeo and Miranda were having some sort of "most steals" contest. Bitoy Omolon finally broke out of what has been holding him back and critics finally understood the reason why Reyes was the draft's third overall pick.
Fernandez’ gave Sta. Lucia character. At the start of their championship run, fans dozed off or switch channels whenever they see green uniforms running amuck (with an exception if this was an SMC game). When the semis happened, it was the Red Bull-Purefoods series that proved watchable.
And when Sta. Lucia and Purefoods faced off against each other, fans thought that Purefoods would win by an onslaught. James Yap and Kerby Raymundo led a unit that knew how to win. Purefoods had a rich, championship tradition that could be traced to the days of Alvin Patrimonio.
The Realtors had a mix of youth and experience... that only had one championship prior.
And then they won the title.
After the championship, Sta. Lucia dismantled their core. Williams and Reyes were sent to Talk N Text, Espino and Mendoza were sent to Powerade, and Yeo and Miranda were now sporting the San Miguel colors.
Omolon and Aquino were part of Meralco Bolts' inaugural squad.
After his Sta. Lucia stint, Fernandez went on to briefly coach the UP Fighting Maroons, and more importantly, Coach Boyet spearheaded the NLEX Road Warriors' dynasty in the PBA D-League.
Currently, he has led the San Beda University Red Lions to five finals appearances and four NCAA basketball championships.
Ever since the 2007-08 PBA Philippine Cup, the franchise spot Sta. Lucia held and Meralco is currently holding has had a couple of Finals appearances but has yet to win a PBA championship.