By ADRIAN STEWART CO
The Iloilo United Royals leaned on timely endgame baskets to turn back Manila Stars, 70-66, and defend their homecourt in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) at the City of Passi Arena in Iloilo province late Monday evening, July 31.
After the Stars tied the ball game at 65-all via a three-pointer by Kyle Neypes, the United Royals regained the lead at 67-65 courtesy of an inside conversion by Conrad Catapusan from a tight pass by Lorenzo Navarro.
After a fumbled layup by Neypes, the United Royals were able to increase the advantage to 69-65 on two free throws by Joshua Flores before Ilonggo Omar Larupay sealed the win with a split free throw.
Flores bucked his first half struggles to finish with 21 points, including two three-point conversions, to go with seven rebounds and be named as the Player of the Game for the United Royals.
Meanwhile, Shaquille Imperial ignited Iloilo’s offense in the second quarter as he ended up with 15 markers, while JR Ongteco hauled 19 rebounds to go with his nine points as Iloilo improved to 10-12.
The United Royals surged to a 7-2 start behind early hits from Ongteco and AJ Madrigal, but the Stars went on a huge run to take a slim 17-15 lead, but back-to-back connections by Iloilo gave them a 19-17 lead.
Iloilo maintained the lead early in the second quarter behind consecutive baskets from Imperial, but it was countered by the strong game of Mark Yu as the visiting Manila took a 35-32 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the United Royals were able to rely on the offense of Flores and Navarro to establish a 52-46 lead, but the Stars had their response as they cut the deficit to 50-52.
In the final period, the Ilonggos surged to a 65-61 advantage as Flores unloaded seven straight points followed by a layup from Imperial, but it was tied by Manila at 65-all on a split free throw by Yu and a triple by Neypes.
Yu, who was benched by Stars interim coach Tyron Dar Juan against Negros Pau Muscovados last Saturday, July 29, top-scored for Manila with 21 points, while Neypes added 13 markers. They fell to 3-20 in the standings.
ILOILO 70 — Flores 21, Imperial 15, Ongteco 9, Catapusan 7, Navarro 5, Sumido 5, Madrigal 2, Arambulo 2, Guion 2, Armenion 1, Larupay 1, Basco 0, Nunez 0, Javelosa 0.
MANILA 66 — Yu 21, Neypes 13, J. Mangahas 9, Bautista 7, A. Mangahas 6, Acosta 6, Salo 2, Manalo 2, Pasculado 0, Mancao 0, Esguerra 0, Yutuc 0, Lao 0, Dava 0, Espiritu 0.
Quarterscores: 19-17, 32-35, 52-50, 70-66./ASC, WDJ