MPBL: Robles the hero as DavOcc stops Manila in heated game

Bob Guerrero on Nov 24, 2019 10:00 AM
MPBL: Robles the hero as DavOcc stops Manila in heated game
"Sabi ni coach mag-focus lagi at huwag magpadala sa sinasabi ng kalaban, nagbunga naman." - Billy Robles

In a clash of contenders that lived up to its billing, the Davao Occidental Tigers - Cocolife successfully defended their home court in beating the visiting Manila Stars - Frontrow 79-76 in Saturday night's main game of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Lakan Season.

The large crowd at the Rizal Memorial College gym in Davao City witnessed a testy, see-saw encounter that ended with a game-clinching triple from DavOcc's Billy Robles.

"Sabi ni coach mag-focus lagi at huwag magpadala sa sinasabi ng kalaban, nagbunga naman," said the Ilonggo gunner afterwards. His stunning triple off the glass with 12 seconds gave the Tigers a two point lead that held up until the end.

Cocolife's Emman Calo scored all of his team-high 16 points in the first half, which ended with the Davaoenos up 40-31. Midway through the third period and down 50-40, Manila's Gabby Espinas was whistled for throwing an arm at DavOcc's Chester Saldua while the two battled for a rebound. Espinas also seemed to step on or near Saldua before walking away. The refs gave him an unsportsmanlike foul and then a technical, which equals a disqualifying foul. On the way to the dugout Espinas was seen, with his two hands, making a motion that appeared to be like that of someone stirring a bowl.

Then just before the third quarter ended, Frontrow assistant coach Ariel Vanguardia vehemently protested a call against Mac Tallo. He was slapped with two technicals and also sent packing as the period finished with the Tigers up 62-55. The ejections seemed to flip a switch with Manila, with Chris Bitoon stroking in a pair of three-bombs as a devastating 13-0 Manila run gave them a shock 68-62 lead with seven minutes left.

But Tiger Bonbon Custodio caught fire and reeled off a series of baskets, including a bucket off the glass with a foul as well. He made the free throw to cut the Manila lead to one, 74-73, with two minutes to go.

Then with 38 seconds left Billy Robles coaxed the ball in as Cocolife retook the lead, 75-74. Manila grabbed the advantage back when Ronnie Matias collected a perfect bounce pass from Bitoon and finished off the baseline. Twenty-seven seconds showed on the clock. Robles then sunk his brilliant banked 3-pointer with 12 seconds left for 78-76. Mac Tallo missed, Gian Abrigo rattled the follow-up, and Tallo got an unsportsmanlike foul for barging into rebounder Ivan Ludovice, resulting in his dismissal and a chance for Ludovice to pad the lead just before the game ended.

Manila rued a subpar 36% clip from the field including a poor 19%, or 5/26 from outside.

Davao Occidental strengthens their position atop the South Division at 18-3 while Manila loses for just the fourth time in 21 Lakan Season games. Chris Bitoon and Aris Dioniso were the best scorers for Frontrow, with 15 points apiece.

The undercard saw the Batangas City Athletics Tanduay prevail in the battle for bragging rights across the Verde Island Passage. The Batanguenos, who are now coached by former UP Fighting Maroon Woody Co, outgunned the Mindoro Tamaraws 106-99, with Jason Melano providing 26 points and 8 rebounds for Tanduay, with Jaymo Eguilos just a point behind.

Batangas led by as much as 15 in the first half before a late five-point barrage by Mark Doligon helped the Tamaraws pull to within 9, 55-46 at halftime. The lead stayed put at the end of the third at 78-69 despite eight points in the period from Mindoro's Mac Baracael. Athletics big man Eguilos was good for 11 in those 10 minutes.

In the fourth quarter Mindoro's Sandy Cenal brought his team to within three possessions of Batangas, 102-93 with a free throw with 2:30 remaining. But hopes of a late surprise were quashed by a Melano split and Jeff Viernes layup for a 12-point lead with 1:49 left.

Batangas City were a superb 48% from the field and feasted inside, scoring 66 points in the paint against 48 from their rivals. Baracael led Mindoro with 18 points, Justin Tan's team slides to 8-16 while the Athletics are now sporting a 13-8 card good for 4th in the South Division.

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