The defending Liga Pilipinas Champions Cebu Niños eked out a close 58-55 victory over top-seed and host Misamis Oriental Meteors last night at Xavier University Gym to even their best-of-five Championship Series to 1-all.
Ex-pros Bruce Dacia and Jojo Tangkay, and Cebuano speedster Woodrow Enriquez presided over the Niños’ fiery start as they led from start to finish.
The Niños controlled the rebounds as the Meteors couldn’t capitalize on the momentum of their Game 1 win. Abby Santos, Marlon Basco and Ariel Mepaña lorded over the boards to offset another poor shooting from the perimeter.
It was a tight first half with Cebu leading 32-25 at the turn. Egged on by the mammoth partisan crowd, the Meteors rallied to within 41-40 on Dexter Micutuan’s 8 points including 2 triples, before Cebu countered with 2 straight baskets to end the 3rd quarter 45-40.
The 4th quarter saw Cebu trying to pull away with a 9-0 run capped by a 3-point shot by Bruce Dacia to erect a 14-point lead, 54-40. But the never say die Meteors fought back behind Mark Yee, Mark Kong and Joey Mente and a 12-0 spurt brought them within 54-52.
With both teams in the penalty, they exchanged charities until Dacia split his free throws to give MisOr a chance to tie the game, 58-55, time down to 14 seconds. But Cebu’s defense botched MisOr’s final play resulting to Mark Yee attempting a hurried 3-point shot which was way off the mark.
With the win, the Niños assured that the series will resume in Cebu for Game 4 and if necessary, Game 5. Game 3 will again be played to tonight at XU Gym with the winner needing just a win to claim the title.
Tangkay finished with 16 points, including nine in the first half, while Dacia had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Basco, who had only a free throw and six rebounds to show in Game One, roared back with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Yee was the lone Meteor in double figures with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Joey Mente was next with nine markers, scoring a field goal in each period.
HOW THEY SCORED:
CEBU 58 — Tangkay 16, Dacia 13, Basco 12, Ababon 5, Enriquez 4, Mepana 4, Padilla 2, Santos 2, Cavan 0, Aying 0.
MISAMIS ORIENTAL 55 — Yee 15, Mente 9, Butel 8, Micutuan 8, Kong 5, Daja 4, Moreno 2, Gudez 2, Bombeo 2, Paterno 0, Sanchez 0, Tagupa 0.
Quarters: 21-15, 32-25, 45-40, 58-55.