THE Mandaue City Ballers dug themselves out of a 16-point deficit to thwart defending champion Talisay City Aquastars, 94-76, in Game 2 of their best-of-three championship series in the 2019 Governor’s Cup Inter-Cities/ Municipalities Basketball Tournament.
The Ballers did their own version of a come-from-behind win before the jam-packed crowd at the Mandaue City Sports and Cultural Complex on Thursday, May 9, to tie the series at 1-1 and force a deciding Game 3.
With their backs against the wall, the Ballers went on a scoring spree with a 27-2 blitz in the third quarter to take the lead for good from the stunned Aquastars.
“I reminded the boys at the dugout that we are playing a championship game. I told them to execute the plays and put pressure on defense,” Mandaue City head coach Gary Cortes told reporters in Cebuano.
Cortes’ wards responded to the call in emphatic fashion as Paul John Sungahid, Gabriel George Cometa, Kenneth Jove Brillo and Lemuel Jake Gonzaga orchestrated the 27-2 run to take a 57-48 lead at the middle of the third quarter.
“Our coach and my teammates trusted me to perform. I just did my part for the team,” said the University of the Visayas standout Cometa, who finished the game with 23 points, 16 assists and three steals.
Dwight Kent Dabon joined the scoring fray as he converted back-to-back buckets before Archie Buscay drilled a buzzer-beating three-pointer to finish off the third quarter with a comfortable lead, 72-61.
Mandaue City poured in 40 points in the second quarter while limiting the Aquastars to only 15.
Mandaue City was not letdown in the payoff period. Cometa put the icing on the cake with a beautiful dribble-drive to the basket and eluding pesky defender Ronan Briones to make the crowd go wild.
Talisay City led by as much as 16 points, 46-30, in the second period, when Keaton Cylde Taburnal scored 11 of his 22 points.
“At the start of the third quarter, we adjusted our defense,” said Cortes, referring to the team’s switch to full-court pressure at the second half.
Brillo, who missed Game 1 due to a one-game suspension, was a vital cog for Mandaue City in the must-win game, pitching in 15 points, nine rebounds and six steals.
“He provided the presence at the middle. His return was a big factor for us,” Cortes said of his big man. “He can dominate, he just did not get good looks in the first half.”
Cometa said it was the unselfish plays that made the big difference.
“It started with our defense and unselfish play. We just trusted each other. My mindset was attack, drop to big man or pass outside to the shooters,” he said.
Buscay pitched in 14 points, Sungahid and each added 13 and Gonzaga contributed 10 for Mandaue City.
Taburnal had 22 points but did not get much support as only
Kendrick Abarquez and Clark Louis Ruedas made it to double figures with 11 and 10, respectively.
Talisay City won Game 1 in come-from-behind fashion, stunning Mandaue City in the fourth quarter. Mandaue City returned the favor in Game 2.
Game 3 will be at the University of San Carlos Gym on Saturday, May 11 at 3 p.m.
The provincial champion will win P500,000 cash purse while the runner-up will bag P300,000 courtesy of the Cebu Provincial Sports Commission and the Cebu Provincial Government.