By: Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The once loud and crazy Manileño crowd in San Andres Sports Complex went dead silent after the Iloilo United Royals upset the second seed of the North division Manila Stars Frontrow, 88-85, in one of the most memorable road wins for the United Royals.
Coach Eric Gonzales of Iloilo continued to pull out surprises as he drew Donald Gumaru and inserted him into the starting lineup.
The lineup shuffle went on a positive note as Gumaru contributed 8 points and served as a break finisher in Iloilo’s run and gun approach.
Iloilo looked comfortable as they limited the high scoring Manila team to only 14 points in the first quarter, but Chris Bitoon sparked the Stars as they caught fire in the next canto, scoring 36 massive points in just one quarter.
During Manila’s run in the second, with emotions high and calls not going Iloilo’s way, coach Gonzales barged into the court and disrupted Manila’s Aris Dionisio, causing tempers to flare up for both sides leading to Gonzales and a Manileño staff being ejected.
Manila stole the lead going into the second half, 40-36.
With coach Gonzales’ ejection, the message he delivered to his boys was received and put to action immediately as they battled it out with Manila the whole second half.
Manila looked to finish the game behind their crowd, seemingly gaining control of the game and putting out dazzling display of finishes, but Iloilo responded.
Cedric De Joya’s substitution in the 4:25 mark provided to be the turning point in the final frame as he stepped on the gas to punish Manila’s tired legs, doing what he does best, running and dishing out assists.
In the last 2 minutes of the game, De Joya stole the ball and kicked out a pass to Gumaru to push their lead to 3, 83-80.
Samboy De Leon sealed the match with a put-back layup with 50 seconds left in the clock and sank the last 2 free-throws that put the icing on the cake.
Aaron Jeruta came up big as he bullied every guard matched up against him in the shaded area, tallying a double-double performance with 16 points, 10 boards, and 6 dimes.
Jeruta and De Leon shared best player of the game honors.
Iloilo is currently on a 3-game winning streak and improved to 7-4, fifth in the South division.
Iloilo- De Leon 19, Jeruta 16, Tamsi 12, Escoto 10, De Joya 9, Gumaru 8
Manila- Bitoon 20, Lastimosa 14, Espinas 9, Matias 9, Abrigo 8, Dyke 6