MANILA, Philippines -- Jumbo Plastic-Basilan is one win away from securing the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup Mindanao leg championship.
Showing no rust from an 11-day layoff, the Peace Riders soundly defeated Petra Cement-Roxas, 81-69, to take Game 1 of the best-of-three Mindanao finals at the Pagadian City Gymnasium in Zamboanga del Sur.
Basilan will look to clinch the title in Monday's Game 2, with tip-off at 5 p.m.
A victory will give them the right to face Visayas Leg kings KCS-Mandaue in the southern finals. Meanwhile, the fourth seed Vanguards aim for an equalizer.
"I'm just happy we followed the game plan. Kahit na nagkaroon kami ng long break, nakita naman dito na we have fresher legs than them so we just kept on pressuring from start to finish," said Peace Riders head coach Jerson Cabiltes.
Already ahead by 10 entering the second half, Basilan limited its rivals to just 13 points while draining 21 to establish an 18-point margin entering the fourth period, 63-45.
The squads then just traded baskets, a situation that favored the leading Peace Riders.
Two free throws by Francis Camacho slashed the Vanguards' deficit to just 12, with 2:08 to go. But it was a case of too little, too late.
Chris Bitoon was a sniper off the bench for Basilan, uncorking 20 points, going 4-of-6 from behind the arc to go with four assists.
Mythical team member Michael Mabulac added 12 points and six rebounds, while Season MVP Hesed Gabo chipped in 10 points, four steals, three rebounds, and three assists.
The Peace Riders capitalized on Roxas' 22 turnovers, translating them to 24 easy points. The victors also dominated the running game, tallying 20 fastbreak points while their foes only had six.
Vanguards veterans Leo Najorda and Chito Jaime each dropped 16 points and five rebounds in the losing cause.
MVP finalist James Castro was held to just six points on a 1-of-6 shooting clip. He also committed four turnovers.
Basilan 81 - Bitoon 20, Mabulac 10, Gabo 10, Collado 9, Bringas 6, Juico 5, Taganas 4, Balucanag 4, Baloria 4, Siruma 3, Uyloan 2, Manalang 2, Hallare 0.
Roxas 69 - Najorda 16, Jaima 16, Sta. Ana 8, Castro 6, Camacho 6, Bondoc 5, Elmejrab 4, Casino 4, Reyes 2, Deles 2, Velasco 0, Intic 0, Templo 0, Pasia 0.
Quarter scores: 24-14, 42-32, 63-45, 81-69.