M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu displayed the heart of a champion to withstand the spirited comeback of Misamis Oriental, 78-76, and rule the inaugural Tournament of the Philippines (TOP) at the full-packed Cebu Coliseum.
The Niños of Cebu dictated the game right from the start leading by as much as 15 points in the second quarter, but needed one big defensive stop down the stretch to repulse Misamis’ fierce rally.
With the win, the Niños become the first champion team of the tournament jointly organized by the Philippine Basketball League and Liga Pilipinas.
Cebu, which also won in Games 2 and 4, wrapped up the best-of-five title series, 3-2.
“I have to give it to the boys. They don't want to lose, especially in front of our team owners Michel and Michael Lhuillier. Like the company that we represented, the ML Kwarta Padala, we always aspire to be No.1. We wanted to win this championship very much," said coach Yayoy Alcoseba.
Former UAAP scoring champion Patrick Cabahug shoved Misamis to within 76-77 with back-to-back triples that almost silenced the overzealous Cebuano supporters with 17.6 ticks left.
Tension heightened when Cebu’s Froilan Baguion could only split his charities, giving Misamis the opportunity to win the game with a triple or send the game into overtime with a two-point basket.
But Cabahug missed a wide open three-point shot. Misamis got another chance when Eder Saldua retrieved the ball, but he was distracted by the defense of Ian Saladaga as time expired.
The Meteors could have won the game if not for their horrendous free throw shooting. They made only five of 17 tries in the first half alone. In contrast, the Ninos made all but one of 10 tries.
The Niños defense also made life miserable for Reed Juntilla and Neil Raneses, who combined for only 16 points. Cabahug led all scorers with 20 points.
“We were able to contain the combined production of Cabahug, (Reed) Juntilla and (Neil) Rañeses. This (game) was their lowest combined production. But this game was the hardest for us," added Alcoseba.
Marlon Basco topscored for the Niños with 15 points while Stephen Padilla and Ariel Mepana finished with 12 and 11 markers, respectively.
Rey Joble, GMA News