M.Lhuillier nips Montana for title

The victorious Cebuanos with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (center) and Araw ng Dabaw sports committee chairman Christopher "Bong" Go (2nd from right, standing).(Photo courtesy of Renato B. Lumawag/Mindanao Times)

Mayor Rody Duterte watched intently from the sidelines. Around the gym, a sea of humanity filled every space of the gym, some craning their necks at every opening while the others bravely hung on posts.

Not an ordinary occurrence too was the electrifying performance of a young American missionary who was awesome in slamming his way to the dunk title.
Indeed, this was not an ordinary day.
Not an ordinary finish too, as hometeam Montana Pawnshop gallantly fought to the end but came out short against the visiting M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala 77-73 for the championship of the Mayor Rody-Inday Sara Invitational Basketball tournament, March 18.
But it was the not-so-ordinary performance of a slippery reserve that broke the hearts of the home fans.
Mark Ababon, who plays second fiddle to former pro Stephen Padilla in the M. Lhuillier rotation, stood ten feet tall in the finals as he almost singlehandedly quell a Montana uprising in the third, firing 12 of his 21 points in that stretch. And just when the Jewels closed the gap 73-74 in the dying seconds, the southpaw Ababon buried the dagger on the Davao franchise with a booming triple off a screen.
The Cebuano pointguard danced and body-slammed with teammates on center court as the shocked crowd gave him their loud approval. Ababon was later named tournament MVP.
The finals, which drew the biggest crowd at the Davao City Recreation Center (formerly Almendras gym) in years, was not without drama and intensity. Montana’s Ronald Lamocha and Lhuillier’s Nat Cruz were thrown out of the game for throwing punches, 5:06 in the fourth. It helped that the Mayor was in the sidelines and nobody from the bench stood up to join the fray.
Former PBA journeymen Bruce Dacia and Marlon Basco combined for 30 points while dominating the boards for M. Lhuillier. Padilla, who averaged close to 5 triples before the finals, was limited to just two and a total of 8 points as he was shadowed the entire match. The Jewels got 14 from Henry Fernandez, 13 from Michael Manigo and 12 from Solitaria.
Montana suffered a severe blow when Fernandez, the team’s leading scorer, was tagged with his fourth foul early in the third period and had to sit out in a long stretch just as the Jewels was catching up on the Cebuanos.
In the appetizer small dunk contest, Clarence Jeffery of the Sports Ambassadors regaled the crowd with his gravity-defying dunks. The slams were simply oh-so-extraordinary—he started off with a windmill jam, followed up with a Jordanesque 45-degree skim-the-rim to earn perfect scores in the first two rounds. In the finals, he bounced off facing-about from the sidelines then caught the ball in mid air before slamming it home. His final dunk could have brought the house down but he failed in two attempts to execute the between-the legs East Bay Funk dunk.
Jeffery, nicknamed “The Black Superman”, is a former standout of the Mississippi College aand a member of the Ventures for Victory squad that regularly plays exhibition matches in the country. He is set to join the Asian College of Technology Cyberknights in the Cebu collegiate hoops.
Montana rookie Miggy Solitaria, a standout of Ateneo de Davao University, finished second in the dunkfest, showing off with two vicious double-handed jammers.
But the dunkfest happened so fast everyone wished they could see it on a replay.
In the battle for third, Team Bida of Laguna won a physical match against a fighting Pacman Warriors squad of GenSan 86-74. Leomar Losentes erupted for 30 points for Team Bida while John Eric Coronado had 14 for Pacman who wound up 4th.(pr)
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