MPBL South champion Davao Occidental gutted out a tight 84-82 win over Zamboanga to open its 2020 Lakan Cup campaign on a high note on Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Chester Saldua recovered the ball after Harold Arboleda denied Mark Yee at the rim, scoring the go-ahead undergoal stab with 23.4 seconds remaining.
The Tigers' defense completed the trick in the endgame, with Billy Robles swatting away Med Salim's drive in the final 7.3 seconds as Raphy Reyes muffed both of his potential three-point winners late.
"I just try to fit guys into our system," said coach Don Dulay, lauding the efforts of Saldua and Marco Balagtas in the clutch. "They're fighters. They understand what I want, and it's just them understanding each other at this point."
Saldua finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, and three assists to lead last season's runner-up to the opening day victory. Robles chipped in 14 points, seven boards, and three dimes, but none bigger than his game-saving block.
Balagtas got himself 12 points and four rebounds, as Yvan Ludovice wound up with 11 points and six assists in the thriller.
"They gave us a good fight and I expected that. Looks like we have a lot to work on. We need more time to jell," said Dulay.
Arboleda was the shining light for the Family's Brand Sardines-backed crew with a near-triple-double performance of 24 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals.
Leo de Vera got himself 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting from downtown, while Salim got 12 points and four boards in the defeat.
DAVAO OCCIDENTAL 84 - Saldua 15, Robles 14, Balagtas 12, Ludovice 11, Calo 8, Albo 8, Terso 7, Custodio 4, Raymundo 3, Yee 2, Forrester 0, Mocon 0.
ZAMBOANGA 82 - Arboleda 24, De Vera 15, Salim 12, Reyes 11, Juntilla 10, Nalos 6, Cudal 2, Costelo 2, Santos 0, Rono 0, Jumao-as 0, Ignacio 0.
Quarters: 20-17, 32-36, 58-52, 84-82.