IT’S a mission accomplished for the visiting Misamis Oriental Meteors, who now have a good chance of winning the first ever Tournament of the Philippines (TOP) National crown. They beat home team M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Niños with a 90-87 cliffhanger in Game 1 of the National Finals series at the Cebu Coliseum last night.
The Meteors who were aiming to steal just one game from the Niños at home will shoot for a 2-0 lead starting 6 p.m. today.
The addition of Reed Friar Juntilla proved to be the missing link for the Meteors, who clearly dominated the game despite giving up a 14-point lead twice.
Juntilla, a former UV Baby Lancer, before jumping to Manila to play in the PBL, eased the load of another former Baby Lancer, Patrick Cabahug, who found a way to break the defense of the Niños.
Cebu scored the first basket, a triple by Stephen Padilla, but the next possessions proved too trying for the home team as they missed the next five shots that allowed MisOr to lead 10-3.
The Niños struggled before they regained the lead, 23-22, with only 10.7 seconds left in the first quarter on Richard Ian Saladaga’s triple, but Cabahug took it back for the MisOr with his own triple at the sound of the buzzer.
The second quarter was very trying for the Niños as they could not find a way to break the defense of the Meteors. Instead, the opponents established a 53-39 lead highlighted by a 12-0 run before the first half closed at 42-53.
Cebu started the third period on a 19-9 scoring and took the lead for the second time on Padilla’s triple, 64-62, at the 2:50 mark, but Cabahug regained it for the Meteors with his fifth triple 30 seconds later.
The lead swayed back-and-forth twice before it settled on the visiting squad, 72-67, at the end of the penultimate quarter.
The Niños could not find their rhythm as the Meteors continued to protect the lead before Froilan Baguion tied the game at 87-all with a triple with 1:26 remaining.
That proved to be the last basket of the Niños, while the Meteors went to score five more points to win the game.
Cabahug, who sank seven triples, scored the game-high 25.
Juntilla finished with 19 and Neil Rañeses scored 17. Saladaga topscored for the Niños with 15, Padilla and Nat Cruz scored 12 points each and Bruce Dacia added 10.