SLR 83, Redbull 80

On: 10 November 2008

PBA's 34th Season

Now in their mid-30s, few expect Marlou Aquino and Dennis Espino to come out with explosive games anymore. But the spark they sometimes offer can prove to be more than enough.

Like what the two veterans did Sunday, enabling Sta. Lucia Realty to nose out Red Bull 83-80 and cut short an alarming skid in the KFC PBA Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.

The two combined for 11 crucial points in the fourth quarter, completing the defending champions' amazing comeback from a 19-point third quarter deficit.

With the two leading the way, the Realtors managed to post a 76-70 lead of their own and take an 82-77 cushion in the last 49.5 seconds.

“Marlou and Dennis really came up big for us tonight,” said Realtors coach Boyet Fernandez of the win that snapped their slide at three games and improved their win-loss record to an even 4-4. “Coming into the game, our mind-set was to stop our skid and try and check our halfcourt offense na talagang masyadong masama of late. Good thing Marlou and Dennis stepped up.”

Red Bull's Jeffrei Chan capped a career game with a triple to make it a two-point game and Cyrus Baguio came up with a steal against Denok Miranda in the last 11.3 seconds.

But Miranda himself harassed Celino Cruz into calling a timeout in the backcourt, a respite the Barakos did not have the luxury of.

That resulted in a technical foul and a charity Espino converted and the count stayed until the end when Cruz muffed a harried triple try inside the last 6.3 seconds.

Despite struggling to a 6-of-19 field shooting, Kelly Williams still wound up with a team-high 17 points for SLR, which continued to miss guard Ryan Reyes due to back spasms. The reigning MVP, who averaged just 8.0 points on a 16% field goal shooting in their last two games, collared six of his career-high-tying 18 rebounds in the fourth, however.

Another team veteran in Paolo Mendoza was the other lone Realtor in double figures with 14.

“Without Ryan we really needed somebody to step up,” said Fernandez. “Good thing Kelly controlled the rebounds and made stops for us and the other wing guys also stepped up.”

Gabby Espinas had a career-high-tying 20 points and a team-high 13 rebounds, Chan finished in double figures for the first time with 15 and Cyrus Baguio and Carlo Sharma had 13 and 10, respectively.

But they all faded when needed most and Red Bull, handled by Gee Abanilla while head coach Yeng Guiao is in the US, dropped to a second straight loss and a 3-5 slate.

The possibility of the Barakos dropping to another loss seemed a very remote possibility after they controlled the game for the most part, erecting a 56-37 bulge after opening the second half with an 8-0 run.

Sta. Lucia would keep plodding on, however, with its second unit stoking the comeback.

Norman Gonzales highlighted a 14-2 run, ending the third with seven straight points and Christian Coronel capped it with a follow-up that made it a very manageable 60-65 game.

It ws Aquino's turn to fire up SLR in the fourth period by scoring all his six points, spiked by a banked shot that gave the Realtors a 70-67 lead.

Chan's three-point play tied the count for the last time at 70, but Nelbert Omolon's undergoal stab, Espino's charities and Mendoza's lean-in jumper made sure SLR would stay ahead.

That wind-up was in stark contrast to the way the game started, with Red Bull seizing control through a 12-2 run ending the first quarter for a 24-14 lead.

The Barakos actually committed six of their 23 turnovers in the second period, but still managed to stay ahead 48-37, with Sharma and Espinas doing the most damage.

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