THE title-clinching days of the M. Lhuillier Kwarta-Padala Cebu Niños are over as they suffered their worst loss in over a year and yielded the Tournament of the Philippines (TOP) seventh leg title to hosts Cobra Energy Drink Iron Men, 81-63, during the finals yesterday in Manila.
That loss came after the Niños routed the Iron Men, 104-81, during the elimination round.
Cobra Energy seemed to have learned from that debacle and displayed an airtight defense to pull the surprise victory.
The Cebuanos’ offense also conked out when they needed it most as leading scorer, Stephen Padilla, produced only four points and was 0-of-6 from the three-point area.
Overall, the Niños sank only 22 of 66 tries and was a woeful 3 of 20 from the three-point zone.
With MLKP playing badly, the Iron Men went on to control the tempo of the game with former University of the East forward Parri Llagas leading the way.
Llagas scored 24 points off the bench.
Also shining for Cobra were Rudy Linganay and Val Acuña, who scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Mark Ababon topscored for Cebu with 19 points, Bruce Dacia added 12 and Ariel Mepana finished with 10.
On Monday, the Niños will complete their elimination phase assignment as they travel to Cagayan de Oro City for the eighth leg. It will be be hosted by the Misamis Oriental Meteors at the Xavier University Gym.
MLKP-Cebu will only have a one-day rest before plunging into another leg. This time, they will be up against one of the league’s best teams, the Meteors, the Hobe Bihon-Taguig City and the Ascof-Lagundi Cough Busters.
Meanwhile, Ani-FCA Cultivators took third place after beating the MP-General Santos City Warriors, 82-73, in the opening match.