Leones de Ponce (basketball)
|Leones de Ponce|
|Arena||Juan "Pachín" Vicéns Auditorium|
|Location||Ponce, Puerto Rico|
|Team colors||Red, Black|
|Head coach||Nelson Colón|
|Ownership||Dr. Oscar Santiago|
|Championships||12 (1952, 1954, 1960, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1990, 1992, 1993, 2002, 2004)|
The Leones de Ponce (lit. "Ponce Lions") are a BSN basketball team based in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The Lions are one of the BSN's most successful franchises, having won a total of twelve championships. They play their local games at Juan Pachín Vicéns Auditorium, named after one of their former players. The team formed in 1946.
The 50s and 60s
The Leones successes have always been periodical: their first championship came in 1952, 22 years after the beginning of BSN tournaments. They repeated as champions in 1954, but the 1953 championship did not finish when players from Ponce and San German were involved in a brawl which BSN officials could not control. The Leones did not win any more championships until 1960. The 1960s were a glorious decade for the Leones, who repeated in 1961 and then won back to back to back titles in 1964, 1965 and 1966. The presence of guard Juan "Pachín" Vicens greatly helped the Leones to reach the success they had. He was the key player in an already great roster. His impact can be evidenced by the fact that the Lions venue is named after him. Tex Winter, an assistant coach with the NBA Chicago Bulls championship teams of the 1990s, coached the Leones to their two 1950s titles, while Red Holzman was the main architect of the titles won from '64 to '66.
The Leones could not win a championship for 24 years after the 1966 title. In 1984 they reached rock bottom when it was discovered that they had proceeded against the BSN's rules to sign the aptly named David Ponce. Ponce was an American born Puerto Rican, and he had not spent the three years in Puerto Rico that are necessary for a BSN player to be nationalized, therefore, he was not eligible to play in the league. When this was discovered, a league wide scandal broke out, and the league determined to close the tournament that year by carrying out the Copa Olimpica championship instead of the normal championship finals. The Leones were excluded from participating in the Copa Olimpica.
The Leones started rebuilding, acquiring such players as José "Papote" Agosto, Cesar Bocachica, Francisco "Papiro" León, Julian Rodriguez and their star player, Toñito Colón. With these players, the Leones, contended for the 1989 title, losing in seven games to Mario "Quijote" Morales and the Guaynabo Mets. With the acquisition of veteran Bobby Ríos in 1990, however, the Leones formed one of the most feared roster line-ups in the league. The four key players (Agosto, Lanauze, Colón, and Ríos) were known as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" in local media for their sharpshooting accuracy. They returned to the finals, and beat Guaynabo in a rematch. In 1992, coached by legendary Julio Toro, the Leones returned to the throne, beating the Capitanes de Arecibo for the title. A rubber match with Mario Morales and his Mets was played at the 1993 finals, and the Leones prevailed, beating the Mets four games to one. They also reached the finals in 1995, 1996, and 1998.
The 21st century
After 1993, Ponce took nine more years to win a title. With the acquisition of Eddie Casiano and Bobby Joe Hatton in 2001, the team started re-building around them, with remaining key veteran players like Toñito Colón. In 2002, they beat the Vaqueros for the title in seven games. In 2003, the Leones signed former Vaqueros player Jerome Mincy, but they could not repeat as champions despite reaching the finals again. In 2004, in a series marred by controversy (Ponce almost threatened to pull out of game six during the fourth quarter), the Leones won their twelfth championship, defeating the Coamo Marathon Runners in seven games, with a game seven score of 92-77. They dedicated the championship to the city mayor, Hon. Rafael Cordero, who died in January of that year.
Due to financial difficulties the team did not participate in the season of 2011 and 2012
On November 2, 2012 an agreement was reached for the sale where Dr. Oscar Santiago acquired the franchise.
Following are the scores for the Ponce Leones basketball team.
|Leones de Ponce||Basketball||Baloncesto Superior Nacional||Juan Pachín Vicéns Auditorium||BSN Championships (12)
Leones de Ponce roster