When the top seed Misamis Oriental Meteors take the floor for Game One of their best-of-five 2009 Smart Liga Pilipinas Conference II National Finals tomorrow at the Xavier University Gym, they will be facing a familiar foe in the third seed and defending national champion M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Niños.

From 2006 to 2007, a healthy rivalry ensued between both clubs as they competed in the Mindanao Visayas Basketball Association (MVBA), a league that later merged with the Manila-based National Basketball Conference (NBC) to form Liga Pilipinas in 2008.

The Meteors of Gov. Oscar Moreno, which did not carry a team moniker back then, and the then Jewelers of Michel Lhuillier and coach Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba counted three MVBA finals appearances apiece.

They met each other in two MVBA finals, during the second conferences of 2006 and 2007, with M. Lhuillier winning both times. Both series also unfolded in similar manner – the teams would trade wins on the road before M. Lhuillier took the deciding Game Three at the New Cebu Coliseum.

MisOr grabbed its only MVBA championship during the 2007 First Conference, sweeping Arthro Kontra Arthritis-Cebu, 2-0, with current assistant coach Bong Abad calling the shots. Aside from the two wins against MisOr, M. Lhuillier also won the very first MVBA conference over PacMan-GenSan, now known as the MP Warriors of GenSan.

Definitely, the Meteors of coach Jun Noel would like nothing less than to get back at the Niños. This conference, the Niños have beaten the Meteors in two of their three meetings. The Niños beat the Meteors during the Cebu City leg preliminaries, 70-65, last March 5. However, the Meteors beat the Niños in the leg finals two days later, 69-68. The following week, the Niños scored their second win over the Meteors with a 61-58 triumph during the MisOr leg preliminaries.

Last conference, the Niños whipped the Meteors twice during the Pagadian City leg – 84-72 and 86-70. In the playoffs, the Meteors lost to the Harbour Centre-Taguig Batang Global in the semifinals, 3-1. The Niños went on to crush Taguig to annex the very first Liga championship last September, 3-0.

One thing going for the Niños is that the Meteors have dropped Game One in their two playoff series this conference against the Warriors and Quezon Red Oilers.

Meanwhile, the Niños are undefeated in the playoffs, sweeping the Ilocos Sur Bravhearts and Trace-Laguna Stallions in succession. This conference, the winner of Game One has won four out of the six best-of-five series completed.

The Meteors were pushed to the five-game limit by the Red Oilers. Five straight missed Red Oiler attempts in the dying seconds of Game Five at the Quezon Convention Center allowed the Meteors to advance to the finals via a 58-57 escape victory last Holy Wednesday.

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