Barangay San Antonio drew first blood in the 2012 DLX/Gualo Rai Invitational Basketball League, outclassing defending champion KFC/Taco Bell, 73-65, in the league opener last Saturday night at the Gualo Rai Basketball Court.
San Antonio seized control of the close game late in the third quarter, led by as much as 15 in the fourth, and then thwarted KFC's short rally midway in the final canto to win the first game in the second edition of the DLX caging.
Bryle Alegre went 2-for-2 from the foul line to give San Antonio its first lead, 45-43, after falling behind at halftime, 30-32. Nevin Salem then finished what Alegre started, scoring 7 of San Antonio's last 9 points to end the third with their team now ahead by 7, 53-46.
A 7-2 start in the fourth quarter stretched San Antonio's advantage to 12, 60-48, before KFC woke up and answered with its own 8-0 rally to move within six, 54-60, with over six minutes left on the clock.
However, San Antonio pulled away anew with Salem firing nine straight points, making all of his baskets off fastbreak plays. With Salem burning rubber, San Antonio tasted its biggest lead at 15, 69-54, less than three minutes left on the clock.
KFC them made one final push for a big comeback when they sliced the lead to single digits, 60-69, and Salem, Alegre, and Jaymark De Guzman fouled out. However, KFC went 1-for-8 from the foul line in the ensuing plays, while Jack Aranda hit 2-for-2 to secure the win.
Salem paced San Antonio with 20 points, while Melvin Cadiang and De Guzman added 17 and 10 markers, respectively.
KFC newcomers Sii Mafi and Angelo Fernando top-scored for the defending champion with 13, but their baskets could not come in streak. In the early loss, KFC, which won the DL JOS-sponsored DLX caging against Team Pogi this month, clearly missed the services of Finals MVP Jeff Durant.
Durant was a force inside in KFC's title win, controlling rebounds, making putbacks, and challenging opponents' shots. The bulkier, but much slower Mafi tried to fill Durant's place, but missed a lot of free throws and could not consistently hit those easy shots underneath. Mafi was 1-for-4 from the 15-foot line in the final two minutes of the match and muffed three attempts inside.
Fernando despite scoring double figures was still looking for a place on his new team, while holdovers from the champion KFC squad also struggled with their games. Regular season MVP Ralph Francisco and Mythical Five member Herbert Maranan had only 7 and 5 markers, respectively.
San Antonio is bannered by the core of the Fastbreakers that finished second in the regular season of the DLX caging early this month and beefed up its roster with the addition of Alegre and De Guzman, who played for the CNMI U17 National Team.
Sixteen other teams are competing in the second edition of the DLX B league.
Brgy. Sna Antonio 73 - Ne. Salem 20, Cadiang 17, De Guzman 10, Palacios 8, Alegre 6, Villanueva 2, Aranda 2.
KFC/Taco Bell 65 - Mafi 13, Fernando 13, Francisco 7, Deleon Guerrero 6, Dela Rosa 6, Tinio 6, Maranan 5, Lee 4.
Scoring by quarters: 16-16, 30-32, 53-46, 73-65.