Bucking a slew of injuries to key players, the defending National Champion Misamis Oriental Meteors took home the championship of the Smart Liga Pilipinas Conference III Laguna Leg in convincing fashion at the expense of Forward Taguig, 84-77, Saturday at the Stallions’ Gym of Trace College.
Already without guards Mark Moreno (ankle) and Lyndon Gudez (knee) who sustained injuries in the preliminary round, the Meteors’ rotation got further decimated with team captain Ramil Tagupa dislocating his right index finger in the first quarter.
Coach Jun Noel found relief in seldom-used guard Rocky Sanchez who slowly rallied the Meteors and orchestrated the come from behind victory. Sanchez, a one-time National University Bulldog, capped his game-long brilliance with a three-point play at the 4:31 mark that gave the Meteors of Gov. Oscar Moreno the lead for good, 73-71.
The Meteors then clamped on defense, capitalizing on Taguig’s errors and forced shots to pull further away by the 23-second mark, 83-74.
Taguig of Mayor Freddie Tinga and Coach Bing Victoria took advantage of the Meteors’ manpower woes and raced to a 26-15 lead after the opening period. Taguig remained firmly in control as Paul Reguera and Rex Leynes launched back-to-back triples to give them the lead for the last time, 71-70, and 4:47 left in the contest.
Sanchez starred in the championship game with 18 points followed by Eder Saldua with 17. Harold Sta. Cruz had 16 points and 15 rebounds in the losing cause followed by Lou Gatumbato with 15.
PAGCOR Chairman Ephraim Genuino together with Liga Pilipinas President Noli Eala awarded the championship trophy to the Meteors, their fourth overall and first in this conference backed by Smart, Accel, Molten, Calcium-Cee, Gatorade, Air 21 and Burlington and sanctioned by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
With an average of 18.3 points in the tournament, gunner Patrick Cabahug of the Meteors was honored as the leg’s Most Valuable Player.
The four-game sweep and 15 points earned by the Meteors vaulted them all the way to Second Place in the overall Tour Standings with 26 points. Taguig collected seven points and moved to Third Place with 25 points. The undefeated M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Ninos are far ahead with 45 points and are assured of the top spot in November’s Super Leg that will determine the next National Champion.
Earlier in the day, the host Trace-Laguna Stallions of Atty. Erwin Genuino and Coach Nomar Isla ended the tournament on a winning note by taking Third Place over the struggling MP Warriors of GenSan of Manny Pacquiao and Coach Ramon Pido, 73-60.
How They Scored:
For Third Place
LAGUNA (73) – Capati 16, Estrada 12, Mangahas 12, Doruelo 8, Grijaldo 7, Angeles 6, Hugnatan 6, Sanz 2, Legaspi 2, Villaver 2.
GENERAL SANTOS (60) – Callo 14, Tadena 8, Sagad 8, Farochillen 6, Gonzaga 5, Recustodio 5, Ilanga 5, Locsin 4, Mendoza 4, Coronado 1, Rubi 0, Cabatu 0, Medalla 0.
Period Scores: 22-15, 36-33, 60-49, 73-60.
MISAMIS ORIENTAL (84) – Sanchez 18, Saldua 17, Clavel 12, Cabahug 12, Mamaclay 8, Daja 5, Kong 4, Butel 2, Guiyab 2, Tagupa 2, Barcellano 2.
TAGUIG (77) – Sta. Cruz 16, Gatumbato 15, Reguera 14, Marquez 14, Leynes 7, de Castro 6, Moody 3, de Guia 2, Walsham 0, Vijandre 0.
Period Scores: 15-26, 40-43, 60-59, 84-77.