WHEN the Tournament of the Philippines (TOP) opened last June 9, the M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Niños instantly made an impression and established themselves as the team to beat as they swept all its games to win the first leg title.

However, as the tournament, organized by the Philippine Basketball League and the Liga Pilipinas, heated up, the other teams got better, while the Niños were stuck in a rut.

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Today, after a month-long break and skipping the second to fourth legs, the M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala squad will plunge back into action.

“The long wait made us anxious and hosting the leg made us eager,” M. Lhuillier head coach Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba told Sun.Star Cebu.

In addition, the Niños are out to protect an unbeaten winning streak since the Third Conference of the Liga Pilipinas last year.

The M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala has a perfect 25-0 record and will be

shooting for its 26th straight win today.

Coming to test the Niños are their fierce rival Misamis Oriental Meteors, Hobe Bihon-Taguig City and the neighboring Mandaue-Cebu Landmasters.

The opening game today is scheduled at 4 p.m. with the Meteors facing the Landmasters followed by short opening rites at 6 p.m. The Niños vs. Taguig game is at 6:30 p.m.

The Meteors won the Mandaue City Leg last July 3 and placed second in the Gen. Santos Leg last June 19.

Taguig took home the fifth leg title after beating Ascof-Lagundi last Friday at the EAC Gym in Manila, while the Landmasters finished third in the Laguna Leg but came up with nothing when they hosted the fourth leg.

The Meteors are proving to be a strong contender and parade a very tall frontcourt with 6’7” Mark Andaya, 6’6” Philipp Butel, 6’5” Ferdinand Daa, 6’5” Luis Taganas and 6’4” Neil Rañeses.