By Ivan Saldajeno
BINAN--Navotas had a recent history of blowing a late lead down the stretch, and on Saturday night, the team was on the verge of fumbling in the end again.
Ron Dennison came to the rescue.
Dennison put up a solid clutch effort as the Clutch finally lived up to their moniker and subdued the Valenzuela Classic, 72-70, in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup at the Alonte Sports Arena.
Dennison scored a clutch basket and the eventual game-winning assist to a wide-open Jay Javelosa with 8.1 seconds remaining as Navotas got the win despite losing a late six-point cushion.
The Clutch held a 66-60 advantage with 1:37 remaining until a three-point play from Ford Ruaya sparked the Classic's comeback bid.
Not helping Navotas' cause were Donald Gumaru and Javelosa only converting 1-for-2 in their respective trips to the foul line and Jai Reyes committing a foul on Mikee Reyes while the latter was taking a right corner three.
Mikee Reyes made 2-of-3 from the charity stripe to force a 68-all deadlock with 40.5 seconds remaining.
Dennison opted to go for an isolation play and found some space off the turnaround for the one-handed shot to give the Clutch a 70-68 lead with 24.7 to play.
Paulo Hubalde still kept the Classic in the game as he scored on a quick layup to force the last logjam at 70-all with 17.6 seconds left.
Dennison again went on an iso play, but with the help defense now committing on him, he found Javelosa open for the layup with 8.1 seconds to go in the game.
With no timeout left for Valenzuela, Mikee Reyes had to run the full length of the court, but Jaymar Gimpayan fumbled Reyes' kick-out pass, and Hubalde, after retrieving the ball off a scramble, was forced to make a heave from way beyond the arc that only hit the front rim as time expired.
Dennison finished with a double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds along with four assists and three steals for Navotas, which moved to a tie with Pasay for seventh and eighth places in the Northern Division at 6-9.
Hubalde got 19 markers, five boards, eight dimes, and four steals for Valenzuela, which slipped to a tie with Pampanga for ninth place in the North at 6-10.
Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno