NCR shrugs early Palaro gold rust, nabs 16th straight crown

By Ozzy Alaba

MANILA, Philippines – Albeit their dismal onset, NCR still kept its Palaro dynasty alive in the end.

National Capital Region (NCR) brushed off their early gold quest struggles to stamp their 16th-straight overall championship in the 2023 Palarong Pambansa after a 85-gold, 74-silver, and 55-bronze medal outing in Marikina City, Saturday.

After a slow tourney start, NCR zoomed to the golden seat in the blink of an eye on the final two days, thanks to their gymnastics and swimming delegates, to defend their years long-held throne once more, which they first nabbed in the 2005 Games in Iloilo.

The Jammers nagged a 2023 Palaro-best 36 golds on four divisions of three gymnastic disciplines, lead by Eldrew Yulo's personal six-gold sweep, and 17 swimming golds to stage their medal tally comeback after a lackluster Day 1 and 2 showing, which saw them fall behind throne contenders Western Visayas and Calabarzon.

Their jins also contributed in their last-gasp surge with four golds in taekwondo secondary-level kyorugi at St. Scholastica Academy last Friday.

Western Visayas, meanwhile, settled for second for the first time since 2013 with 60 golds, 24 of those came from athletics, and 45 silvers and 44 bronzes.

The Champs lived to their name in historic fashion after stealing the secondary girls' volleyball gold by dethroning NCR in a thrilling 18-25, 25-20, 19-25, 25-16, 18-16 finals nailbiter on Friday.

Middle blocker Dona de Leon poured 21 points for the Bacolod Tay Tung-backed volleybelles, some of those on crunch time, to overturn a 0-6 decider deficit into a 11-10 edge to clamp the win eventually.

On the other hand, the Heroes notched third with 52 golds and silvers, and 57 bronzes.

Fighters shine in b'ball, archery

Central Visayas finished fifth with 26 golds, 18 silvers, and 35 bronzes, but shone in the headlines with their impressive wins in basketball and archery.

The Fighters staged a massive upset on the meet's penultimate day after dethroning NCR, 77-73, in the secondary boys' basketball finals behind Jared Bahay's clutch go-ahead jumper.

The victory sealed the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu-manned squad's vengeance on NCR's NU-Nazareth School after getting eliminated by the Bullpups in the NBTC semifinals earlier this year.

Naina Dominique Tagle also made history for the region by becoming the Games' first-ever quadruple golden winner by topping the secondary girls' 30, 50, and 60-meter and 1440-round archery event last Thursday.

NorMin dominates Palaro boxing

Similarly to the Fighters, Northern Mindanao wounded up in eighth place with 19 golds, 20 silvers, and 33 bronzes, but scored big by becoming the newest turf for Palaro boxing.

The Stars stamped their dominance in the various age classifications for junior and school boys' events by bagging two golds, two silvers, and bronzes to add to their medal haul in the Games' finale.

Moreover, SOCCSKSARGEN clipped second with two golds and a silver, and Western Visayas at third with one gold and silver, and five bronze plums.

The newly-re-crowned kings are poised to run their title defense back this 2024 at Cebu City.

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