MANILA, Philippines - The Cebu M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala Niños leaned on strong second half effort as it waylaid upset-conscious Pampanga Smart Buddies, 80-62, to close in on a historic title sweep in the Super Leg of Liga Pilipinas at the Cebu City Coliseum.
Former pro and local hero Stephen Padilla fired 13 points while Ian Saladaga and Marlon Basco each chipped in 11 to give the host Niños the outright berth in the finals after sweeping the four-game elimination round.
It was also the 20th straight victory for the Yayoy Alcoseba-mentored Cebu squad after going into this final stage with an unblemished 16-0 (win-loss) slate.
The Niños could cap their amazing effort with a sweep if they could beat the winner of the knockout playoff match pitting the Misamis Oriental Meteors, the reigning champions, and the Quezon Red Oilers.
The Jun Noel-coached Meteors finished second by winning three of their four elimination round matches while the Oliver Bunyi-mentored Red Oilers had to edge the Trace Laguna Stallions and the Pampanga Smart Buddies via tiebreak to clinch the last playoff spot.
Quezon, Laguna and Pampanga had identical 1-3 records but the Red Oilers emerged with the highest tiebreak score despite dropping a 65-72 decision to the Stallions to stay in the hunt.
And now destiny beckons for the Niños.
“Our main goal is to make the finals, now we’re going for the title sweep,” said Alcoseba, whose charges topped the first season. – Joey Villar
of this league being used by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas as a vehicle to discover and tap talents from the provinces.
The tournament is sanctioned by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and sponsored by Smart, Accel, Molten, Burlington, Biofresh, Calcium Free, Gatorade, San Miguel Beer, Air21, Casino Alcohol, Omega Pain Killer, M Lhuillier Kwarta Padala and host Cebu Councilor Yayoy Alcoseba.
The Buddies had actually looked headed to spoiling the Ninos’ sweep bid when they led 10 points early in the third quarter.
But Cebu used a suffocating full-court trapping defense and a vicious running game to take the punch out Pamapanga’s attack to turn what was once a close game to a ghastly rout.
The Liga Pilipinas Classics are aired daily on Viva Prime Channel. For details, log on to the league’s official website at www.ligapilipinas.net.