DEFENDING champion R-ACE Lao Warriors survived the monstrous performance of Jan Babiera to take the solo lead in Bambi Cup 40-up division of the ongoing 2017 Ballpals Christmas League at Barangay 24 covered court in Cagayan de Oro City.
The 6-foot-tall forward Babiera exploded for 36 points, but five players in R-ACE uniform—Balong Mabalot, Bato Mercado, Darwin Josol, Jil Vallecera and "Stev Panaz" Salgados -- scored in double-digit numbers to counter the former’s huge production and handed Pims Dad’z Gunners’ first loss in two outings, 78-73.
The Warriors, which got twin-digit figures from Bimboy Daanaoy, Mabalot, Vallecera, Arvin Martinez and Salgados to defeat Romul’z Gold Buyer during the opening day action, 90-88, were leading the Gunners by 22 points at the half after also effectively limiting the effort of Loloy Casiño from the 3-point arc.
But the do-it-all Babiera fueled the Gunners’ fierce rally in the final half to even cut the Warriors’ commanding lead to only one with barely 50 seconds remaining in the fourth and final quarter.
It was at this juncture that the late-coming Martinez suited up as the Gunners’ premier point guard.
Martinez got opened and lobbed a 3-pointer but missed. Vallecera, however, challenged the rebound and was able to tap the ball back to Martinez’s position. Martinez’s second try from afar luckily hit the target to douse cold water on the Gunners’ comeback try.
“Kapoy nga makalingaw. Kulang pud `mi hangak na kaayo paglakag sa 22 points,” later said Babiera, who came in the company of Babart Acaylar, Khoy Macapayag and Casiño, but only had the latter playing with in just the first three quarters of the ballgame before leaving the court for good.
“Mao nay problema kon kusog inyong lineup pero panalay ang mga kauban. Lisud sila peldihon kon kompleto lang,” tournament commissioner Dodong Caballero was overheard as saying.
Babiera and the Gunners debuted with a 84-80 victory over last Fiesta Conference’s runner-up BongMark Green Archers.
The Archers’ main man Rex Armojallas came up with 20 points with Andit Sacabin dishing out 14, but the Gunners simply overwhelmed them with the foursome of Babiera, Acaylar, Casiño and Macapayag combining for 84 points.
Missing last season MVP Christopher Carretas in their first two matches, the Warriors also got a lot of help from GAT Tamayo, Ronald Acenas and ageless center Vulture Balabat in their initial 2-0 romp off.
In 39-below category for R-ACE Cup, Sumanga’s Suroca Duplexx also started strong in their own title-retention bid.
R- ACE Lao Warriors 78 — Mabalot 14, Mercado 14, Josol 12, Vallecera 12, Salgados 10, Acenas 5, Balabat 5, Martinez 3, Quijada 0.
Pims Dad’z Gunners 73 — Babiera 36, Gaid 9, Meralles 9, Rabanes 8, Casiño 7, Calingin 4, Acaylar 0.
Pims Dad’z Gunners 84 — Babiera 28, Acaylar 27, Macapayag 19, Casiño 10, Gaid 2, Calingin 0, Pimentel 0.
BongMark Green Archers 80 — Armojallas 22, Sacabin 14, Mercado W. 13, Abapo 9, Arcaya 9, Oncada 6, Jodaps 3, Lingaton 0, Guangco 0.