Baby Panthers stay alive
Emmanuel B. Villaruel (The Freeman) - November 16, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  He’s the smallest man on the floor but stands the tallest of them all in terms of resilience and big fighting heart.

Spunky playmaker Kyle Ochavo exploded for 30 points, including 14 in a decisive fourth-quarter assault, as the University of the Southern Philippines Foundation (USPF) Baby Panthers rallied from 17 points down to stun the University of Cebu (UC) Baby Webmasters, 82-77, in double overtime in the 19th Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI) men’s basketball tournament last night at the Cebu Coliseum.

Ochavo also pulled down 10 rebounds, passed away five assists and picked up three steals to prove that he isn’t the juniors All-Star MVP for nothing, a feat he achieved just two days ago.

Elijah Singson also deserved a hearty pat on his back after cashing in 16 points, three rebounds, two assists and four steals to help the Baby Panthers live and and fight for another day against the twice-to-beat Baby Webmasters.

The Baby Panthers trailed 35-52 after three periods, but Ochavo, Singson and Jack Suello masterminded a searing 19-1 run to put the Baby Panthers on top, 54-53, at the final 4:33 mark of the regulation period.

The Baby Webmasters quickly regained the upper hand and were even headed to victory after having the ball possession while enjoying a 63-61 lead with only 15.2 seconds left to play but King Balaga committed a costly backcourt infraction.

In the ensuing sequence, Ochavo nailed a close-range jumper before a phalanx of UC defenders to send the game into its first five-minute extension.

This time around, the Baby Panthers controlled the match and were on the verge of early triumph after maintaining a 68-66 edge but after the two sides swapped missed shots for nearly two minutes, Isaiah Blanco of UC sank two foul throws to forge another overtime.

While the others already lost steam playing extended minutes, Ochavo showed he still has a lot of gas left in his offensive tank by knocking inn back-to-back triples in an 8-2 run that towed the Baby Panthers ahead by six, 76-70, with still 2:55 to go.

The Baby Webmasters stayed close for the last time at 74-78, as Suello and Antonio Octaviano scored on a four-point swing to seal the deal for the Baby Panthers, 82-74, with less than a minute left to play.

Luther Leonard topscored with 22 points while Blanco and Maczi Micutuan connived for 31 points but to no avail for the Baby Webmasters, whose four straight finals appearance was stalled.

They have another chance to accomplish that goal though as they battle the Baby Panthers again in knockout match on Saturday, November 16.

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