Highway Express eked out a thrilling 67-66 victory over Blue Haus in the DLX/Gualo Rai Invitational Basketball League last Friday at the Gualo Rai Basketball Court.
Ivan Devero made the winning basket, drilling his patented fallaway jumper from the right key against the outstretched arms of three Blue Haus defenders in the closing seconds of the exciting match.
The play happened after Jun Patawaran missed his second free throw, leaving Blue Haus with a precarious one-point lead, 66-65, 12.2 seconds left on the clock. Patawaran's second free throw attempt hit the back iron of the ring and bounced off, while Blue Haus and Highway Express players jumped for the rebound.
Pete Lizama was one of the rebounders and managed to sneak in front of the much taller Sheen Metran for the offensive board. Lizama then kicked the ball out to Ferdie Tobias, who was at the right baseline and swung the leather over to the waiting hands of Devero.
Devero caught the ball and with the time winding down made one dribble and pulled up for the tough shot against Trevor Ogumoro, Sam Fernandez, and Bernard Aquino. The Highway Express gunner drained the clutch shot to put his team ahead, 67-66, with 4.3 seconds remaining in the game.
Blue Haus sued for time and when the game resumed, Aquino drove from the left key against two Highway Express defenders, but his banked attempt overshot the mark as time expired.
Highway Express stole the win in its first game in the league, working its way back into the match after falling behind by six, 66-60, with only 1:24 left on the clock.
Blue Haus faltered on its bid for a 2-0 record after missing crucial free throws in the homestretch. Sam Fernandez went 0-for-2, while Melvin Capalad also muffed two charities. Capalad, who came in for Ogumoro with less than two minutes left in the game, already had an earlier booboo when he babied an open shot.
Capalad's miss came after Devero made a layup and cut Blue Haus' lead to two, 64-66, with 30.2 seconds remaining in the game. Blue Haus made a quick inbound and Fernandez spotted Capalad alone in their frontcourt, however the latter's crucial basket rattled off the rim.
Fortunately for Blue Haus, it got the offensive rebound and Highway Express quickly gave up a preemptive foul to stop the clock. Highway Express' gamble then paid off, as Capalad faltered on the two free shots and Patawaran was fouled on the other end after going for a follow-up shot off Lizama's miss.
Patawaran canned his first charity, but his second attempt went too strong. However, Lizama, Tobias, and Devero were there to save Highway Express, teaming up for the game-winning play.
Devero top-scored for Highway Express with 32 points and was the lone player on his team to score in double figures.
Ogumoro paced Blue Haus with 24, making most of them in the third canto where he drained 14 straight markers to lift his team to a 51-46 advantage. Ogumoro was then neutralized in the fourth, as he was held to only one field goal and Blue Haus went on to collapse in the closing minutes of the match.
Highway Express 67-Devero 32, Lizama 8, Patawaran 7, Ritual 4, Tobias 4, Tibayan 4, Herrera 2.
Blue Haus 66 - Ogumoro 24, Aquino 13, Camacho 11, Fernandez 6, Metran 6, Galulu 2, Capalad 2.
Scoring by quarters: 15-14, 32-32, 46-51, 67-66.