The M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Ninos stayed undefeated and claimed the top seeding and an outright berth in the National Championship game of the Smart Liga Pilipinas Conference III Super Leg by crushing the defending National Champion Misamis Oriental Meteors, 78-54, Thursday night at the New Cebu Coliseum.
The Ninos of Michel J. Lhuillier and Coach Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba led from the opening buzzer, stretching their perfect winning run to 19 straight games in the conference.
Mark Magsumbol came off the bench to spark the Ninos’ second period breakaway, scoring 11 points to push the Ninos ahead at halftime, 38-21. Earlier, the Ninos ruled the slow first period, 13-7.
The Ninos were unrelenting, as Ian Saladaga and Magsumbol scored on back-to-back baskets to start the final period and establish their biggest lead at 29 points, 65-36. The Meteors of Gov. Oscar S. Moreno and Coach Jun Noel tried their best to whittle the final margin but the Ninos always had a ready answer. The Meteors finished the preliminary round with a 3-1 win-loss card and will await their opponent in the knockout semifinals that will determine the Ninos’ championship opponent
Magsumbol finished with a total of 16 points, his best performance as a Nino after transferring from the Quezon Red Oilers midway through the conference. Marlon Basco followed with 13 points. No Meteors scored in double figures with Khiel Misa the high man with only nine points.
In the nightcap, the Smart-Pampanga Buddies kept their National Championship hopes alive by escaping the fighting Trace-Laguna Stallions, 70-65. The Buddies of Coach Allan Gregorio hope to win their remaining game against the Ninos in order to face the Meteors for the second championship seat.
How They Scored:
MLKP-CEBU (78) – Magsumbol 16, Basco 13, Enriquez 10, Saladaga 10, Dacia 8, Ababon 6, Padilla 5, Nailon 4, Santos 4, Mepana 2, Poligrates 0.
MISAMIS ORIENTAL (54) – Misa 9, Moreno 8, Lamocha 8, Cabahug 7, Mamaclay 7, Kong 3, Mente 3, Tagupa 3, Clavel 2, Daja 2, Butel 2, Saldua 0, Guiyab 0.
Period Scores: 13-7, 38-21, 60-36, 78-54.