FORMER San Miguel Beer forward Nelbert “Bitoy” Omolon made his presence felt after leading Gamba 97 to a 71-65 victory over Batch 2005 in the 8th XUHS-ABA basketball tournament here on Friday night at XUHS covered courts.
The long wait for Omolon’s arrival paid handsomely as he debuted with 23 points, including three triples in his first game of the season with the 97ers and second overall in the history of ABA hoopfest.
Laplap Latosa backed him up with a solid 16 as Niku Benson Valles came up with 12 points.
Gamba 97 opened the first quarter with a 7-0 run from Valles and Latosa’s baskets and Kane Acedera’s three-point bomb.
The Jammers 2005 managed to close the gap by three, 12-15 at the end of the period and even took a 5-point lead, 30-25 at the end of the half, though Omolon barely warmed up with just 5 points to show.
Omolon waxed hot in third as he got enough help from Latosa as the 97ers went for a 10-point stretch before the Jammers trimmed it by four, 47-51 at the close of the third quarter.
“We have nothing to say but Omolon’s towering presence was a huge factor for them. But at least, we gave them a good fight,” said Batch 2005 coach James Racines.
Jai Manulat led 2005 with 19 including three from the arc, while Jim Menciano and John Thomas Pupos gave 11 and eight points, respectively.
The win was 97’s fifth straight after opening the season with four-game losing streak.
Still, the Jammers remain on top of the leaderboard in St. Francis Xavier Cup with 7-2 win-loss ledger.
Other results saw Batch 2003 besting defending St. Faber Cup champion Batch 2000, 50-45 and Batch 1995 prevailing over Batch 1999, 58-54.
“Abi man gud sa 2000 nga fighting five ra mi pero hinayhinay kami nakompleto sa second quarter,” said John Jamil of 2003.
From a 47-42 lead, Batch 2000 inches closer by two after sinking a trey with 40 seconds left in the final quarter.
But, 2003 answered it with a 3-pointer to settle the issue with still 20 seconds to go.
Batch 2000 now has a 6-4 card, while 2003 slids to the bottom in the Loyola Cup with a 2-8 win-loss record.
The Shantao Moreno-led 1995 takes the No.1 spot in St. Francis Cup with six wins against 2 defeats.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 11, 2017.