HEIGHT mismatch worked for the advantage of the Alaska Aces but this did not stop the M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Niños from pulling a nerve wracking 88-87 win in the first of the two-game exhibition match held at the University of San Carlos gym last night.

It was Alaska’s second straight loss to the Niños. They also lost, 75-55, last September.

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Today, the Aces will be looking for their first victory over the Niños but only the people from Northern Cebu will witness that game since it will be held at the Don Celestino Martinez Sr. Sports Coliseum in Bogo City starting at 6 p.m.

However, long time M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala guard Woodrow Enriquez, who was named the MVP in the last conference, will not be there to help his team. The former Cebu Doctors University Stallion is still at the Chong Hua Hospital under close observation, after a bad fall at 2:23 of the third period.

Enriquez laid motionless for minutes before he was carried off the court in a stretcher. He underwent an MRI scan at the hospital after it was suspected that he suffered a cracked spine.

In the game, Abby Santos sank two pressure-packed free throws in the final 5.8 seconds to give the Niños the victory.

Santos succeeded in collaring the offensive rebound after Bruce Dacia missed a triple, and Santos was fouled on his way to the basket against a taller Aces front line for the winning free throws.

That capped a comeback by the Niños, who erased a 13-point deficit through guns of Stephen Padilla, Dacia and Mark Ababon.

Padilla who scored 22 points, including six triples, combined forces with Jason Forte who also scored 24 points that lifted the Niños to victory.

Playing with the usual 48 minutes, Alaska was all business from the start as coach Tim Cone maximized the use of his new center Samigue Eman and import Diamon Simpson to dominate the opening quarter 20-11 before Forte scored the next eight points to close the first quarter.