WHAT he failed to do in regulation play, Ronjay Buenafe did in overtime as the Bicol Volcanoes subdued the Imus Bandera, 81-78, on Monday in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, Lakan Season at Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
Buenafe missed a free throw with five seconds to go in regulation then missed a buzzer-beater jumper that could have shattered the 72-72 count and given the Volcanoes outright victory.
Atoning for his miscues, Buenafe hit a triple and made two free throws with 12 seconds left in extension to hand the expansion team its first back-to-back wins for a 3-2 card in the 31-team league founded by Sen. Manny Pacquiao.
Buenafe paced the Volcanoes with 26 points on top of 8 rebounds, followed by Chris Lalata with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Jerome Garcia with 12 points.
Getting more cohesive every game, the Volcanoes of coach Monel Kallos surged to a 47-31 spread before the Bandera rallied through the efforts of Mark Dolingon, Gelo Vito and John Cantimbuhan.
The Bandera, however, folded up in overtime as only Dolingon and Vito scored with three points each on the way to 19 and 12, respectively. Vito finished with 14 points.
It was the third loss in a row after an initial victory for Imus which has 2009 PBA MVP Jayjay Helterbrand and actor Gerald Anderson in its roster. Helterbrand scored 9 points while Anderson did not play.
In the other game, the Bacoor Strikers shifted to high gear in the fourth quarter to subdue the Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines, 83-75, for their fourth straight win after an initial loss.
Despite playing with a hurting knee, MPBL All-Star Michael Mabulac powered the Strikers with 24 points and 11 rebounds, supported by MPBL Datu Cup MVP Gab Banal with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Chris Sumalinog with 12 points.
“I am leaving it (knee injury) to God,” said the 6-foot-4 Mabulac, formerly of the Laguna (now Binan) Heroes.
Dominating the boards, 56-34, the Strikers stormed ahead, 80-64, from which the Zamboanguenos were unable to recover.
Following its second straight loss, Zamboanga dropped to 1-3.
With Reed Juntilla and Leo de Vera scoring 9 points each, Zamboanga raced to a 24-17 lead before Bacoor struck and knotted the halftime count at 37.
Juntilla ended up with 14 points while De Vera, formerly a Striker, finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Ryan Costelo added 11 points for Zamboanga, which saw Harold Arboleda became first MPBL player to tally 500 points and 500 rebounds following a 9-point, 2-rebound output.
The Strikers of coach Chris Gavina showed proficiency from the charity line, sinking 18 of 22 tries for a high 81.8 percent conversion.