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Valenzuela edges Marikina in first MPBL 2OT thriller

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Despite all the unforced errors and the missed free throws, Lady Luck smiled on Valenzuela before midnight struck.

The Classic prevailed in an intense battle against the Marikina Shoemasters, 102-99, to cap off a historic MPBL Datu Cup twinbill at the Valenzuela City Astrodome on Thursday night.

Valenzuela claimed the victory despite giving up 31 turnovers and missing 20 free throws in a double overtime thriller, the first time ever an MPBL game lasted 50 basketball minutes--and barely two hours and 40 minutes in real time.

The Classic actually seemed to be on course of getting blown out early on as they already committed 10 turnovers for most of the first quarter before a 5-0 run capped by a buzzer-beating triple from Kido Cabrera drew them to within one, 14-15, at the end of the period.

They had 20 errors already at halftime, but the Shoemasters' struggles from the field during the first half kept the Classic within two, 35-37.

Just as the offense began to pick up in the third quarter, Marikina threatened to pull away, opening a 60-52 lead with 2:28 to play.

But Valenzuela countered with a 9-2 run to end the quarter just behind by one, 61-62.

The team finally grabbed the lead as Cabrera made two free throws for a 63-62 count.

However, it could not put Marikina away in regulation, and the visiting side even retook the lead, 81-77, with 1:31 left in the fourth.

But even Marikina missed out on beating Valenzuela in regulation as Warren Ybanez, following three straight points from Jaymar Gimpayan that cut the lead to one, only made a split from the free throw line to settle for an 82-80 lead, opening an opportunity for Valenzuela to tie the game.

Ryan Arambulo then converted two free throws off a foul to tie the game with 8.1 seconds left.

Yves Sazon actually had a huge chance to steal the road win for the Shoemasters, but his buzzer-beating triple just clanked the rim to the sigh of the Classic faithfuls.

Sazon, however, made up for the missed game-winner with five straight points and an assist to Ronald Roy to open the first overtime period as Marikina raced to an 89-82 cushion with 2:43 to play.

Paolo Hubalde then came alive down the stretch, scoring seven of Valenzuela's 10 points in the first overtime--all within the last 2:28 of the period--that eventually forced the second overtime.

After a tight encounter in the early goings of the second extension, Chris De Chavez dropped back-to-back triples that put the Classic up for good, 101-97, with 50 seconds remaining.

The Shoemasters actually threatened to force a third overtime as Erwin Sta. Maria made two free throws that cut the lead down to two.

However, Sta. Maria, after Mel Mabigat missed two freebies that could have sealed the win for Valenzuela, opted to go for a well-challenged three-pointer that rimmed out, and Ford Ruaya added a split from the line at the final buzzer for the final tally of the game that started around 9:10 p.m. and ended just six minutes before Friday began.

De Chavez fired 16 points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals off the bench for Valenzuela, which tied Pasay in ninth place in the Northern Division at 3-7, a half-game behind eighth placed Pampanga.

Hubalde added 15 markers, seven caroms, seven dimes, and five steals, while Ruaya went for 12 points, 12 boards, one assist, one swipe, and one block.

Sazon fired seven triples overall en route to a 28-point performance, but he was dearly missed the rest of the overtime period due to fouling out as Marikina fell out of a tie with GenSan and Zamboanga for seventh and eighth places in the Southern Division and into a three-way tie with Batangas City and Basilan for ninth place at 4-6.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno