High leaping Cebuano hotshot Richard Ian Saladaga scored on a lay-up at the buzzer to lift the M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Niños over archrival Misamis Oriental Meteors, 80-79, to close out the preliminary round of the Smart Liga Pilipinas Conference III Misamis Oriental Leg at the Xavier University Gym Friday evening (September 11).

Saladaga, who returned to his mother team Cebu after a brief stint in the PBL, redeemed himself after he nearly cost his side the game.  The former University of San Jose-Recoletos varsity star missed a put back of a Woodraw Enriquez free throw miss and then inadvertently fouled Meteor center Arian Daja with eight seconds left and the Meteors ahead, 79-78.  Daja though wilted under presssure and missed both free throws, with the Ninos grabbing the rebound and a quick pass to the streaking Saladaga for the winner.

“Misor is always a tough match up for us. The boys just wanted it more than they did I guess. But now we have to play harder as Misor will surely play tougher in the finals.” said a beaming Ninos head coach Yayoy Alcoseba.

Marlon Basco tied the game for the last time at 77-77 via a free throw split off a Ramil Tagupa foul with 33 seconds left.  Patrick Cabahug then put the Meteors on top for the last time on a jumper at the 14-second mark, 79-77.

Enriquez came off the bench and paced the Ninos with 15 points and six assists while Stephen Padilla fired four triples and a free throw for a total of 13 points plus four assists.  Eder Saldua paced the Meteors of Gov. Oscar S. Moreno and Coach Jun Noel with 18 markers followed by Daja with 13 points.

The Michel J. Lhuillier franchise thus swept all three preliminary games to earn a two-point bonus, vaulting them to the top of the overall standings with 20 Tour Points, one ahead of the idle Trace-Laguna Stallions.  Overall, the Ninos are an immaculate 7-0 in the conference sponsored by Smart, Accel, Molten, Calcium-Cee, Gatorade, Air 21 and Burlington and sanctioned by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).

In the first game, Cebu Landmaster-Mandaue of Joe Soberano and Coach Jun Tan barged into the win column with a 66-64 tripping of the MP Warriors of GenSan.  Timely hits down the stretch stopped a late run by the Warriors of Manny Pacquiao and Coach Ramon Pido.

John Paul Alcaraz had a good all-around game with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.  Veteran Danny Aying also had 11 points.  Jethrone Recustodio topped the Warriors with 11 points.  Dondon Tadena and Dennis Concha followed with 10 points each with Tadena plucking 10 rebounds.

The Meteors and Ninos met anew last night for the leg championship, while the Warriors and Landmaster disputed Third Place.  The champion will earn 10 points while the runner-up gets five.  Third Place merits three points while the remaining team gets a point.

Selected games from the MisOr Leg will be shown next week over How They Scored:

First Game

MANDAUE (66) – Alcaraz 11, Aying 11, Mercado 9, Latonio 8, Solis 8, Llanto 5, Berame 4, Cenita 4, Bucao 3, Cainglet 3.

GENERAL SANTOS (64) – Recustodio 11, Tadena 10, Concha 10, Farochillen 8, Mendoza 8, Ilanga 5, Locsin 4, Coronado 4, Cabatu 2, Medalla 2, Rubi 0, Sagad 0, Callo 0.

Period Scores: 16-15, 33-33, 53-48, 66-64.

Second Game

CEBU (80) – Enriquez 15, Padilla 13, Mepana 12, Dacia 11, Saladaga 10, Basco 8, Ababon 5, Nailon 4, Santos 2, Malinao 0.

MISAMIS ORIENTAL (79) – Saldua 18, Daja 13,Cabahug 11, Kong 8, Gudez 8, Tagupa 6, Mamaclay 5, Moreno 4, Barcellano 3, Sanchez 2, Guiyab 1, Pupos 0, Butel 0.

Period Scores: 17-22, 32-42, 65-59, 80-79.

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