THE M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Niños displayed the poise of a veteran to avenge a frustrating defeat last Thursday with pulsating 79-76 victory over the Smart-Gilas Pilipinas National Men’s Team at the Cebu Coliseum last night.
The win wrapped up a two-game exhibition series and the Niños will again host two matches against the Talk ‘N Tex Phone Pals on March 8 and 9 at the Cebu Coliseum.
Yesterday, the M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala squad stamped its dominance over the youthful Gilas, 2-1 in their head-to-head match-up, though Smart Sports director Patrick Gregorio said Gilas could be back for more matches.
“Definitely we will be back. Gilas will travel to Australia, Serbia and Las Vegas in the coming days. But we will be back,” Gregorio told Sun.Star Cebu.
Despite the defeat, Gilas achieved what they came for--generate support and bring the national team closer to the fans outside of Manila.
“The reason we came here is to bring the team closer to the people in the provinces and you can see how they turned up in this game in terms of support. Tinalikuran nila
yung M. Lhuillier and they rooted for Gilas,” added Gregorio.
The crowd booed the Niños and cheered every Gilas basket and defensive stop.
The Niños were shooting like crazy early as they sank four triples en route to a 22-10 lead after the first quarter.
Gilas was struggling all throughout the first half and allowed the Niños to erect their biggest lead, 46-26, early in the third period.
It was at this situation when the nationals changed gears, holding Cebu to just two points in the next 5:10 to make it within 48-45 with 4:17 to play in the third.
The Niños answered with a short 5-0 blitz but Gilas countered with a 9-0 rally to take the lead for the first time back since 8-7 in the first quarter.
The Niños held their slim lead all throughout the final period, thanks to the all out games of Stephen Padilla, Bruce Dacia and reinforcement Jason Dixon.
Dacia, who scored only four, last Thursday, finished with 19 points, while Padilla had 21 points including five triples.