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Najorda goes clutch as DavOcc rallies to shock Laguna

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Davao Occidental pulled off a huge comeback to edge Laguna, 72-66, in the MPBL Datu Cup at the Marist School Gym in Marikina on Saturday night.

Leo Najorda came up big down the stretch as the Tigers completed a rally from 22 points down to turn back the Heroes.

Laguna thought it had shut down Davao Occidental early on, limiting the latter to just 29 points in the first half before opening the second half with six straight points to take a 51-29 lead.

But the Tigers came alive later in the third, finishing the period on a 19-1 blast to cut the lead down to four, 52-48.

The Heroes still tried to put the game away early in the fourth, scoring four straight points to stretch the lead to eight, 56-48, with 6:34 left while keeping the Tigers at bay midway through the fourth.

Najorda then came to work, dropping back-to-back triples to force a 61-all deadlock with 2:50 to go.

Laguna still took the lead one more time, 64-61. through a Michael Mabulac free throw and Allan Santos free throw.

But Ronald Lamocha and Bonbon Custodio that put Davao Occidental up, 65-64.

Mabulac scored on a layup that put the Heroes up for the last time, 66-65, but Najorda answered with a go-ahead field goal and three straight free throws to complete the Tigers' late charge.

Najorda finished with 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting, seven rebounds, one assist, and one steal for Davao Occidental, which moved up to 8-3, a full game behind Muntinlupa for first place in the Southern Division.

Billy Robles added 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block, while Custodio contributed 11 markers, seven boards, and the same number of assists.

Denok Miranda made 20 markers, six rebounds, and two assists, while Mabulac added 18 points, 17 rebounds, one assist, and two steals for Laguna, which fell to a tie with Paranaque for fourth place in the South at 6-5.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno