MANILA – Xavier School banked on the game-long brilliance of Kyles Lao to defeat Hope Christian High School, 80-74, and tie the best-of-three championship series of the 43rd Bon Chon Chicken Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Association at one game apiece Monday (February 25) at the Chiang Kai Shek College Gym. The winner-take-all Game Three will be played on February 28 (Thursday) at the same venue starting at 6:00 PM.
While churning out his usual numbers, Lao finally found the needed help from his teammates particularly Jarrell Lim who pumped in 16 of his 18 points in 13 playing minutes of the first half. Lao added 17 of his own as the Golden Stallions of Coach Jerome Oliva clung to a slim 40-38 at the break.
Lim did not score until the final 21 seconds, submitting a pair of pressure-packed free throw splits that settled the final tally and repelled Hope Christian’s final attempts to steal the game. Arjan de la Cruz converted a big triple to threaten for the last time, 74-77.
Aiming to end 20 fruitless Tiong Lian seasons, Hope Christian under Coach Stevenson Tiu started strong in the third period behind the timely shots of de la Cruz, Jobert Mercado, John Apacible and Jollo Go and seized the lead and momentum entering the final period, 55-54. The Golden Stallions though did not wilt and continued to fight as surprise starter Jacob Ejercito launched a triple followed by a Lao field goal that gave them the lead for good, 63-60.
Hope Christian’s Jobert Mercado then completed a three-point play to tie the game for the last time, 63-63. From there, brothers Isaac and Gian Go combined with Lao, Louis Cu and Paolo Susmerano in keying a crucial 11-3 run that gave Xavier an eight-point cushion entering crunch time, 74-66.
Lao finished with 31 points on top of five rebounds and six assists to earn the Bon Chon Chicken Player of the Game honors. Lim had 18 markers coming off the bench along with four rebounds and four assists.
De la Cruz paced Hope Christian with 16 points and six rebounds. Mercado finished with 15 to tow three other teammates with double-digit scores.
Xavier’s defense forced Game One hero Jollo Go to a horrific two of 13 shooting from the three-point line, a far cry from his seven triples last February 21. With their big men staying out of foul trouble, Xavier managed to battle Hope Christian on even terms for control of the rebounds, negating the 13-rebound effort of Apacible.
The championship series of the 43rd Bon Chon Chicken MMTLBA will be aired on Basketball TV (BTV) on a slightly delayed basis. Please check with your local cable operator for time and availability.
How They Scored:
XAVIER (80) – Lao 31, Lim 18, I. Go 7, G. Go 7, Lapez 6, Susmerano 4, Ejercito 3, Cu 2, Tio 2, Fernando 0, Chan 0, Felbaum 0.
HOPE CHRISTIAN (76) – de la Cruz 16, Mercado 15, Go 12, Apacible 10, Guion 10, Nunez 5, Siybauco 3, Sumalacay 2, Tubiano 1, Galoso 0.
Period Scores: 18-14, 40-38, 54-55, 80-76.