PASAY--Basilan emerged victorious on Saturday night after getting the better of Bicol after a down-the-wire finish with a 70-65 win in the main game of Day 1 of the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Invitational at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Steel slowly bounced back from a lethargic start and kept the game close against the Volcanoes.
But a huge basket from Jay Collado sparked Basilan's endgame push to seal the victory against Bicol.
With his team down, 64-65, Collado atoned for his crucial offensive foul in the Steel's last play after Philip Manalang found him open for the go-ahead layup with 1:07 left.
However, they still struggled to put the game away quickly after settling for splits from the free-throw line.
The Volcanoes decided to take their chances from three-point range, but they missed three consecutive tries from beyond the arc, the last from Dennis Santos that could have tied the game at 68-all, and Manalang found Ernesto Bondoc open for the dagger layup.
Michael Juico fired 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting and 10-of-12 free throws, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals to lead Basilan, which prevailed in the battle pitting the favorites to rule Pool B.
Collado added 15 points, seven rebounds, and one assist.
Santos made 22 markers on six triples, four boards, and one interception for Bicol.
Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno