By Ivan Saldajeno
QUEZON CITY--Bulacan turned to its defense in overtime to turn back Imus, 117-113, in the main game of the MPBL Datu Cup twinbill at the Bulacan Capitol Gymnasium in Malolos on Thursday night.
The Kuyas failed to sustain a strong start and even a great third quarter recovery, but they stifled the Bandera in the extra five minutes to stay in pace of the Northern Division leaderboard.
Bulacan found its offensive rhythm going in the first quarter, dropping 38 points on Imus after the period.
However, the Bandera answered with their own 38-point outburst in the second quarter as they entered halftime ahead, 63-61.
The Kuyas restored order at their home floor in the third period, scoring 34 in the said quarter to go up, 95-87, after three quarters.
But Imus responded with solid defensive effort in the fourth period, limiting Bulacan to just 15 points.
Jom Sollano also came up big in the clutch, scoring the regulation's last six points and making a buzzer-beating block on Jason Melano that forced overtime.
Melano made up for the botched game-winner by opening the overtime period with a layup, while his fellow Kuyas kept the Bandera scoreless in the first four minutes.
Imus finally got on the board in overtime as Jonathan Rivera fired a triple that cut the lead down to three, 116-113, with 51 seconds to go, but that turned out to be the team's only shot in the free basketball session as Stephen Siruma put the icing on the cake with a free throw with 17 seconds remaining.
Melano finished with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds, three assists, and one steal for Bulacan, which moved up to solo fourth place in the North at 7-3.
JR Taganas grabbed 26 rebounds on top of nine points and seven assists for Bulacan, which won despite giving up 30 turnovers--Taganas accounted for 10 of those errors--by shooting 55 percent from the field and dishing 35 assists.
Elmer Cabahug made 18 markers, five boards, one dime, and one steal for Imus, which fell to a three-way tie with Laguna and Bacoor City in third place in the South at 5-4.
Imus' five-game winning streak since Mike Orquillas took over the head coaching chore for the team came to an end.
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