ZAMBOANGA Valientes' late rally fell just short, bowing to the Saigon Heat, 75-71, on Friday in the Singapore Circuit of the 2023 ABL Invitational at OCBC Arena.
The Philippine team staged a huge fightback from 20-points down, 72-52, with six minutes left and got to within four after a Kemark Carino bucket with 1:27 remaining.
Zamboanga still had cracks to close in but fumbled its numerous chances in the final minute to suffer its first defeat in the regional league.
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Antonio Hester paced the Valientes with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists, while James Kwekuteye made his debut and fired 12 points, six boards, and two dimes off the bench.
Carino added nine points and four rebounds, as beleaguered forward John Amores got the starting nod and produced five points and two boards in the losing effort.
Zamboanga will try to bounce back on Saturday against NS Matrix Malaysia, which has Filipino Jeff Viernes as its head coach.
Jairus Holder and Charles Gilyard both scored 17 points with five Heat players finishing in double figures.
SAIGON 75 -- Gilyard 17, Holder 17, Thomas 14, V. Nguyen 13, Combs 12, Huynh 2, Du 0, Vo 0, A. Nguyen 0.
ZAMBOANGA 71 -- Hester 16, Kwekuteye 12, Carino 9, Arthur 8, Lingganay 7, Amores 5, Smith 4, Chan 4, Cawaling 3, Bernardo 3, Belorio 0, Cadiz 0.
Quarters: 19-19, 44-32, 59-50, 75-71.