With the huge home crowd behind them, the Misamis Oriental Meteors moved to a win away from the very first Tournament of the Philippines (TOP) National Championship with a resounding 75-71 conquest of the top seeded M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Ninos Friday evening at the Xavier University Gym. The Meteors now lead the best-of-five series, 2-1.

Patrick Cabahug canned back-to-back baskets to put the Meteors of Gov. Oscar S. Moreno and Coach Jun Noel the lead for good, 70-68. The Ninos responded with a Marlon Basco free throw before Reed Juntilla took over in the final seconds.

Juntilla sank a 17-foot jumper at the free throw circle over the defense of Bruce Dacia with 28 seconds left, giving the Meteors a 73-69 advantage. Stephen Padilla threatened for the last time with two charities off Khiel Misa in the ensuing play, 71-73. Juntilla was then sent to the foul line anew, splitting his free throws.

Padilla had a chance to force overtime but his triple attempt missed and the loose ball bounced out in favor of the Meteors with seven ticks to go. Juntilla was again fouled and sealed the deal with the game’s final free throw.

Trailing after three periods, 50-62, the Ninos of Michel J. Lhuillier and Coach Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba opened the fourth period with 16-2 barrage capped by a Dacia triple that pushed them ahead, 66-64. Eder Saldua made his sole field goal to tie at 66-66 after which Froilan Baguion put the Ninos on top for the last time via two free throws, 68-66.

The Ninos took the first period, 18-17. However, their shooting suddenly went cold in the second period, mustering only two field goals with shooting a poor seven out of 12 from the free throw stripe. While the Ninos struggled, Cabahug and Juntilla had a field day puncturing the hoop for the Meteors’ final 10 markers en route to a 39-30 halftime cushion.

Cabahug exploded for 23 points after sitting out the first period. Juntilla added 19 points. Both gunslingers are averaging a combined 37.3 points in the series. Padilla led the Ninos with 17 points followed by Ariel Mepana with 12.

Friday’s victory marked only the fourth time in 13 games that Meteors managed to defeat the Ninos at the Xavier University Gym since 2006. However in the ongoing TOP, a joint venture of the Philippine Basketball League (PBL) and Liga Pilipinas, the Meteors won two of their three encounters.

M. Lhuillier now faces a must-win situation in Game Four Saturday in order to force a winner-take-all Game Five on September 13 (Monday) back at the Cebu Coliseum.

How They Scored:

MISAMIS ORIENTAL (75) – Cabahug 23, Juntilla 19, Daa 8, Raneses 7, Andaya 6, Moreno 3, Misa 2, Saldua 2, Reguera 2, Lamocha 2, Taganas 1, Capati 0, Tagupa 0, Lucernas 0.

M. LHUILLIER-CEBU (71) – Padilla 17, Mepana 12, Dacia 8, Baguion 8, Saladaga 6, Cruz 6, Basco 5, Magsumbol 3, Ybanez 2, Ababon 2, Santos 2, Nailon 0.

Period Scores: 17-18, 39-30, 62-50, 75-71.

Cebu evens series

Host M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Ninos bounced back from its Game One debacle to clip the Misamis Oriental Meteors, 78-75, and tie their best-of-five Tournament of the Philippines (TOP) National Finals series at 1-1. Wednesday evening at the Cebu Coliseum.

Nat Cruz, Bruce Dacia and Mark Magsumbol rose to the occasion as they pushed the Ninos of Michel J. Lhuillier to their biggest lead of 15 points, 60-45, midway in the third canto.  When the game was slowly turning into a laugher, the Ninos allowed the Meteors to go on a 12-0 run led by Eder Saldua that stretched into the early phases of the final period.

After a scoreless first half, Patrick Cabahug found his range and bombed the Ninos with a pair of triples that tied the game twice, 63-63 and 66-66.  Cabahug then added one more triple to threaten for the last time with 1:04 remaining, 75-76.

Both teams traded botched plays and Froilan Baguion received an outlet pass only to be hijacked in midair by the chasing Khiel Misa.  Baguion crashed to the floor and was deemed unfit to take his free throws, thus prompting Coach Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba to field Stephen Padilla as his replacement with 22 ticks on the clock.

The veteran Padilla then succumbed to the pressure by splitting his charities, 77-75.  With the shot clock turned off, the Meteors had a big chance but Neil Raneses missed his side jumper with four seconds to play.  Dacia collared the defensive rebound and was quickly fouled.  Not yet in the penalty, Cabahug was forced to foul Dacia, two seconds to play.

Dacia then missed his first free throw and made the second for the final count.  Coach Jun Noel was already out of timeouts so the Meteors threw in the ball from the baseline to Reed Juntilla whose throw from just before the halfcourt line had a good line but bounced off the ring

Employing a suffocating defense that was nearly non-existent yesterday, the Ninos turned the opening period into a low-scoring affair and led, 14-12, despite a late scoring binge by the Meteors.

Cruz, a one-time Meteor, topped the Ninos with 14 points followed by Magsumbol with 12 and Dacia with 11.  Cabahug scored all his 16 points in the second half.  Juntilla added 11 while Misa banged in three triples for nine points.

The Ninos then opened the second period with an 8-0 blitz led by Mark Ababon who surprisingly did not play in Game One.  Padilla, Cruz and Ian Saladaga then took turns at peppering the Meteors for a 39-30 halftime cushion.

The Meteors of Gov. Oscar S. Moreno took Game One Tuesday, 90-87, marking the Ninos’ first loss at home since April 20, 2009 in the deciding fifth game of the Liga II National Finals.  Ironically, it was also the Meteors who emerged victorious that day, 64-52

With Wednesday’s result, the series is assured of playing Games Three and Four at the Xavier University Gym in Cagayan de Oro this Friday and Saturday.  If needed, the deciding Game Five is scheduled for September 13 (Monday) back at the Cebu Coliseum.  The TOP is a joint venture of the Philippine Basketball League (PBL) and Liga Pilipinas and sanctioned by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).

How They Scored:

M. LHUILLIER-CEBU (78) – Cruz 14, Magsumbol 12, Dacia 11, Basco 10, Padilla 8, Saladaga 6, Baguion 6, Ababon 4, Santos 3, Mepana 3, Nailon 1, Ybanez 0, Mondragon 0.

MISAMIS ORIENTAL (75) – Cabahug 16, Juntilla 11, Misa 9, Daa 8, Saldua 8, Lamocha 7, Raneses 5, Andaya 4, Reguera 3, Moreno 2, Capati 1, Taganas 1.

Period Scores: 14-12, 39-30, 60-53, 78-75.

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