ARIS Dionisio showed the way as defending champion St. Clare College-Caloocan ripped De Ocampo Memorial College, 101-79, to close in on the title in the Naascu Season 17 basketball tournament at the San Andres Sports Complex.
The Saints took the fight out of the erstwhile unbeaten Cobras with huge run in the third and fourth quarters to clinch the win in the opener of their best-of-three title showdown.
Dionisio scored 27 points on 12 of 17 shooting and pulled down 13 rebounds in 34 minutes.
The 6-foot-6 Dionisio struck hardest in the second quarter with 11 points as the Saints took control of the game.
Junjie Hallare added 20 points, Paeng Rebugio added 15, while Mohamed Pare had 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Saints, who will try to wrap up the title in Game 2 on Thursday.
Dahrrel Caranguian led De Ocampo with 22 points, while Raymart Atabay added 12.
But no other player managed to score in double figures for De Ocampo, which managed to stay within striking distance until the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Cobras suffered their first setback after winning nine straight games in the eliminations and semifinals.
St. Clare made 41 of its 77 shots for 53 percent compared to only 33-of-78 by De Ocampo for 42 percent.
In the juniors division, Our Lady of Fatima beat defending champion St. Clare, 86-83, in the opener of the best-of-three title series.
Danzel James Gomez scattered 22 points, including a three-point shot that put the Baby Phoenix ahead, 84-83, with only 29 seconds remaining.
Nikko Polo Panganiban added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Baby Phoenix.
Prince Casin led St. Clare with 23 points and eight rebounds, while Joshua Fontanilla had 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Fatima 86 - Gomez 22, Panganiban 20, Hoyohoy 12, Diaz 10, Dalupang 9, Pastrana 8, Santiago 3, Abila 2, Leguin 0.
St. Clare 83 - Casin 23, Fontanilla 21, Peñaredondo 10, Reyes 10, Jumaquio 6, Victoriano 6, Sienes 6, Biteng 1, Junio 0.
Quarterscores: 23-12; 42-36; 66-62; 86-83.
St. Clare 101 - Dionisio 27, Hallare 20, Rebugio 15, Pare 10, Mendoza 9, Palencia 9, Alcober 5, Rubio 2, De Leon 2, De Mesa 1, Principe 1.
De Ocampo 79 - Caranguian 22, Atabay 12, Clarito 9, Sabasaje 6, Manalang 6, Artesano 5, Ramos 4, Dela Cruz 3, Montojo 3, Cañelas 3, Lescano 2, Pascual 2, Fabro 2.
Quarterscores: 18-13; 42-36; 67-57; 101-79.