The Parañaque Patriots banked on the perfect shooting of Harold Arboleda to overcome a sluggish start and down the Cebu City Sharks, 81-73, in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup at the Olivares College Gymnasium in Sucat on Tuesday night.
Reliving his heroics when he was still with the University of Perpetual Help System Altas, the 6-foot-2 Arboleda made 5-of-5 from the 3-point zone and 2 of 2 from short range en route to a career-high 26 points that went with 11 rebounds and 6 assists as the Patriots clawed their way back from a 32-17 deficit to notch their second straight win and share top spot in the South division.
In the first game, the Pampanga Lanterns played with more focus and cohesion to thwart the Bacoor Strikers, 81-80, and tie their victims at 1-1.
The double-double effort of Arboleda, formerly with NLEX in the PBA, put coach Eric Samson and his crew side by side with the idle Muntinlupa Cagers and the Davao Occidental Tigers with similar 2-0 records.
Arboleda got ample support from former San Beda Red Lion Ryusei Koga, who delivered 21 points for the Patriots backed by F2 Logistics.
The Patriots spoiled the first appearance of sniper Patrick Jan Cabahug, who scored a game-high 29 points, and handed the Sharks their second straight defeat.
Unloading a 14-point run, the Patriots zoomed ahead, 70-56, and kept the Sharks at bay in the homestretch through the free throws of Arboleda.
In the opening game, Juneric Baloria, used to playing at Olivares as a former Patriot, shone for the Lanterns with a game-high 24 points, including the clinching free throws with 7.6 seconds to go.
Pampanga won despite missing the services of former pros Michael Juico, who served a one game suspension for incurring two technical fouls in the Lanterns’ 93-70 loss to the San Juan Knights, and Jimbo Aquino, out with a pulled muscle.
The Strikers of coach Budds Reyes drew 21 points from Gabriel Banal and 17 from Christopher Sumalinog.
Meanwhile, the Zamboanga Valientes will unravel veteran Leo Avenido when they face the Muntinlupa Cagers at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Marist School Gymnasium in Marikina.
The Valientes, owned by Yacob Ati and backed by Family’s Brand Sardines, have been tagged the underdogs against the powerhouse Cagers (2-0).
In the 9 p.m. second game, the Marikina Shoemasters (1-1) collide with the Imus Bandera (0-2).
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