NOT even the presence of TV screen PBB Double Up idol "Tibo" could save the premier Opol squad from seeing an end to its three-year reign in the exciting Inter-Eagles Annual basketball tournament here at Barangay Bulua gym, over the weekend.

The clean-shaven Tibo, who made it to the `Big 4' winners, had regularly played with the Eagles from Opol before his fairytale entry to the ABS-CBN network's reality show. He was at the sideline lustily cheering for his comrades in the well-attended match. But the Golden Friendship Eagles Club (GFEC) Team A, which also had a handful of "local stars" they can call their own, was equally hot on fire, eking out a nail-biting 71-70 escape for their first championship ring in four years.

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"Breathtaking would best sum up the Eagles Finals. Both teams are determined to win and we're just lucky the breaks of the game went our way in the final minute," said GFEC Team A coach Monching Banaag.

Back from Cebu, the now heavier and older Christopher "Tupi" Carretas - considered an icon during his college days with the Acsat Bluesharks--conspired with Phillip James Sanchez, Janjan Hengania, James Abucejo and "ice-breaker" Ryan Oneal Arpay--to put GFEC ahead by one.

With still 30 seconds left, GFEC's major headache of the night Owen Ubay-Ubay was all ready to complete a big show if only to please Tibo and the rest of Opol Eagles fans. But GFEC's stingy defense forced Ubay-Ubay to take a hurried shot from beyond the 3-point arc. An offensive rebound by Paguidopon sent the ball back to Ubay-Ubay, though it was too late as the final buzzer sounded before he could make a desperate second attempt from the field.

"It was such a memorable game. Sharing the floor with former local greats such as Tupi, Janjan, Owen and Rex Armojallas is like a trip down memory lanes," enthused James Abucejo whose pivot move before Arpay converted the winning freethrows reminded the spectators when he's still working the backcourts then for Liceo Titans alongside future MBA mainstay Jaime "Diding" Rivera.

"Kusog akong dagan kay fastbreak unya kalit nga hunong, hatag peak dayon tira. Honestly, kahilakon ko na ako pa 'tong nabuhat after all the injuries," shared Abucejo, a battle-scarred warrior, who once severed a tendon when he started gaining weight.

It was a see-saw bout right from the start.

Effective screens by the hulky Nolan Gadia made it easier for Ubay-Ubay to score from outside, prompting coach Banaag to have Carretas put the slippery Ubay-Ubay under lock and key.

It was actually a double-whammy for GFEC as its Team B crushed Opol's second team, 83-68 for the second runner-up plum.

Eagles Enan Sajulga, Edgar Llagas, Jan Babiera and Jun Gomez delivered a combined 61 for GFEC Team B's triumph.

Ecstatic, Golden Friendship Eagles Club president and retired Police Inspector Efren Camaro treated the two GFEC teams to a night-long celebration, capping the three-month tourney's success. (With reports from Margaret Thatcher Navarro)