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Chris Bitoon takes over late as Nueva escapes Quezon in PSL Finals opener

Chris Bitoon of Nueva Ecija drives against the defense of RJ Minerva of Quezon. PSL
By Dugout Philippines

PALAYAN, NUEVA ECIJA--Nueva Ecija flirted with disaster with its depleted and banged lineup and needed to subdue a gutsy Quezon side before scoring a tough 94-91 win in the series opener of the PSL President’s Cup at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum here late Tuesday night.

Already depleted after being orphaned by the departure of key players Michael Mabulac, Hesed Gabo and Roi Sumang then lost JP Maguliano and Bobby Balucanag to injuries, the 10-man Capitals were able to endure the stiff challenge posed by the Titans.

The Capitals raced off to a 17-point lead, 27-10, in the early goings of the game following a three-point basket by Jonathan UIyoan, but the young legs of the Titans were able to chase down that early deficit and manage to come back to make a game out of it beginning the second period.

What started as a lopsided game turned out to be an exciting windup with the Titans threatening to snatch one away from the Capitals’ homecourt.

In fact, Quezon was able to grab the lead, 76-75, off a layup from RJ Minerva, 75-74, with still 6:35 left, until Chris Bitoon played the fireman’s role for the team.

Now the only acknowledged legitimate pure point guard in the squad, Bitoon took over down the stretch, hitting four triples in four minutes to stave off a last-minute uprising by the Titans.

Bitoon came away with a double-double performance of 16 points and 12 rebounds as his all-around game proved to be a much-needed relief for the Capitals, who watched in horror when Balucanag injured his knee while taking off during the warm-up.

Head coach Don Dulay was not surprised at how Quezon battled them to a standstill.

“That big lead happened too early,” said Dulay. “We expected them to come back. It was a challenge today. Those guys, especially their guards, (Judel) Fuentes, and LJ (Gonzales). They’re a tough cover.”

But Dulay cannot help but praise his players for their valiant effort amid the circumstances.

“It shows our championship character,” added Dulay. “It was a character test for us and so far, we passed the test and our guys stepped up. ”

Game 2 of their best-of-five championship series resumes at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum with the Capitals hoping to move on the threshold of clinching the crown before the series transfers to Lucena City where Games 3 and 4 will be played.

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