5 p.m. ? Smart Gilas vs. M. Lhuillier-Cebu Niños
PBA top pick Japeth Aguilar and the rest of the Smart Gilas RP squad put on an aerial show as they stunned the reigning Liga Pilipinas National champions M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Niños, 83-71, in their exhibition game yesterday at the Cebu Coliseum.
Chris Tiu, the Gilas team captain and former Ateneo star, led six players in double figures with 16 points while Marcio Lassiter and JV Casio each had 14 markers. Mac Baracael had 11 while Aguilar and Dylan Ababou ended up with 10 points apiece.
The Gilas showed that they have become a better squad since being bested by the Niños, 66-72, exactly a year ago in their game held at the University of San Carlos (USC) gym. They stood up to the pressure after seeing their double-digit lead get whittled down to just four in the fourth period.
The Gilas were ahead, 67-63, after a free-throw by Ninos' new recruit Jason Dixon, when Aguilar went on a tear, first skying high for a thunderous alley-oop slam dunk off a feed by Casio. The next possession saw more of the same, only this time, Aguilar stuffed the ball off another alley-oop pass from Lassiter.
A jumper by Aguilar and a lay-up by Casio completed the 8-0 run that pushed their lead back up to 12, 75-63. The Gilas were not threatened from thereonend as they handed the Niños their first loss in 25 games. The Niños' last loss came in April of 2009, when they were bested by the Misamis Oriental Meteors in Game 5 of the Liga Pilipinas 2nd conference finals.
Early on, the Niños appeared primed to give the Gilas yet another loss as they raced to a 10-point lead, 23-13, in the first period behind the 11 points of Dixon. The lead remained at nine, 41-32, at halftime.
The winds, though, blew a different tune for the Niños in the third canto as the Gilas tied the game at 43-all after an 11-0 surge. They went on a 13-0 run later in the period to take a 61-49 lead. Starring in that run were Casio, Baracael, Ababou and Tiu as the Gilas sank four three-point shots in the third period alone.
Dixon paced the Ninos with 19 markers. They will get a crack at vengeance today when they take on the Gilas once again at the same venue.