MANILA – Jollo Go put on an amazing shooting display by sinking seven triples to lift Hope Christian High School over the Xavier School Stallions, 74-66, in Game One of the 43rd Bon Chon Chicken Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Association (MMTLBA) Juniors Championship at the Chiang Kai Shek College Gym Thursday evening (February 21).
The wards of Coach Stevenson Tiu erected their biggest lead of the contest, 56-35, midway through the third period on a three-point play by Jobert Mercado. Suddenly, Hope Christian could only come up with a solitary free throw as Kyles Lao and Christian Tio presided over a 16-1 Xavier windup to threaten entering the final period, 51-57.
Go’s sixth and seventh triple were literal daggers into the Stallions’ collective hearts, snuffing out all attempts to rally in the fourth period. His seventh trey with 41 seconds to play settled the final score, an eight-point cushion for Hope Christian.
Go found his range early by drilling two triples in each of the first two periods as he engaged Stallions top gun Lao in a scoring duel. Sadly, Lao hardly got support from his mates as hulking center Isaac Go lapsed into early foul trouble, allowing Hope Christian’s John Apacible to pluck 11 rebounds in the first half, two less than the entire Xavier team.
The second period proved critical as Hope Christian limited the Stallions of Coach Jerome Oliva to only seven markers. Xavier actually held the upper hand for the last time on a Lao free throw at the close of the first period, 21-20.
Back-to-back baskets by Arjan de la Cruz and Apacible restored the lead for good to Hope at the start of the second canto, which proved critical as the Hope Christian defense limited the Stallions to only seven markers. Halftime was pegged at 42-28.
Go led Hope Christian with 23 points followed by Mercado with 13 on top of nine rebounds. Apacible had a double-double with 10 points and 19 rebounds, eight of them of the offensive variety, while de la Cruz and Leo Guion also added 10 points to underscore their balanced attack.
It was an all-Lao show for the Stallions as he pumped in 33 points and six rebounds. No other Stallion submitted twin digits with Tio the closest with nine points coming off the bench.
Both schools split their two encounters in the double-round eliminations. Last January 19, Xavier won in overtime, 71-66, but Hope Christian exacted revenge in their February 9 meeting, 72-64.
Xavier and Hope Christian finished in a three-way logjam at the top of the standings with the Chiang Kai Shek College with similar 8-2 win-loss cards. The Blue Dragons lost out in the FIBA tiebreak to join Saint Stephen’s High School (4-6), Saint Jude Catholic School (2-8) and Grace Christian College (0-10) in the sidelines.
Game Two of the best-of-three series is scheduled for February 25 (Monday), again at the CKSC Gym. If needed, Game Three will be on February 28.
The championship series of the 43rd Bon Chon Chicken MMTLBA will be aired on Basketball TV (BTV). Please check with your local cable operator for time and availability.
How They Scored:
HOPE CHRISTIAN (74) – Go 23, Mercado 13, de la Cruz 10, Apacible 10, Guion 10, Galoso 4, Sumalacay 2, Nunez 2, Tubiano 0, Siybauco 0.
XAVIER (66) – Lao 33,Tio 9, I. Go 6, Lim 6, Susmerano 5, Chan 3, Ejercito 2, Lapez 2, Cu 0, Fernando 0, G. Go 0, Felbaum 0, Dy 0.
Period Scores: 20-21, 42-28, 57-51, 74-66.