CEBU CITY – Alaska survived a stinging M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala fightback for an 83-81 win on Thursday night at the start of the 2013 Sinulog Cup at the Cebu Coliseum.
The Aces saw their nine-point fourth-quarter lead wiped out to just 81-83 by the fighting Cebu Ninos in the final eight seconds of the tightly-fought contest after Cameroonian Ben Mbala connected on a basket plus a foul to boot.
Mbala missed the bonus free throw but the host managed to grab the offensive rebound with a chance for a game-tying basket. But former Alaska stalwart Stephen Padilla was caught stepping out of bounds in an error that doomed the Ninos for good.
Import Robert Dozier had 21 points to pace the Aces, who seek their second straight win on Friday when they battle the Petron Boosters in the four-team pocket tournament.
Rookie Calvin Abueva led all Alaska locals with 18 points, nine of them in the third period that gave the Aces a 61-57 lead after being held to a 34-34 standoff at the half.
Local hero Dondon Hontiveros then caught fire in the fourth and hit three straight jumpers to stretch Alaska’s lead to 68-59 with 6:23 to go in the match.
But the Ninos battled their way back behind Mbala, set to transfer to La Salle Green Archers in the coming UAAP season, and former University of Cebu star Brian Heruela to make a fight out of it in the endgame.
M. Lhuillier, coached by veteran Raul `Yayoy’ Alcoseba, got 23 points from Mbala, while Heruela and Mark Magsumbol each had 15 markers.
Alaska (83) - Dozier 21, Abueva 18, Hontiveros 8, Jazul 6, Dela Cruz 6, Casio 6, Ramos 4, Belasco 3, Reyes 2, Baguio 2.
M.Lhuillier (81) -- Mbala 23, Heruela 15, Magsumbol 15, Saladaga 7, Santos 7 Rodriguez 4, Aboude 4, Padilla 3.