Two-time defending QQ Car Rental Basketball Cup champions Mobil found themselves buried in a hole again, but this time found a way to dig out of it in the second half of Monday's late tip against Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell at the Garapan Basketball Court.
Mobil trailed by double figures in the first half, but battled back to make it a one-point game in the third quarter before pulling off an impressive comeback, 81-80, literally in the last three seconds of regulation.
The win evened out Mobil's win-loss record to 1-1, while KFC/Taco Bell (0-2) is still looking for its first win.
In addition, KB/ABCD II Mart (1-0) held on to a sizeable first half lead and overcame OCM Corp/ (0-1), 76-67, in the early feature.
The season continues in Garapan tonight at 6pm with Northern Marianas College/Lions Club's Proa (1-0) squaring off against OMC Corp., followed by Blue Haus (1-0) versus KB Mart at 8:30pm.
KFC/Taco Bell spurted off to a 22-11 lead in the first quarter as Mobil came out cold once again from the get-go.
KFC/Taco Bell's Jawn Joyner led six teammates with 6 points, but it was the group's scrappy defense that raised some eyebrows and created a number a turnovers that handcuffed Mobil early on.
KFC/Taco Bell kept its foot down and stretched it to a 44-30 margin at halftime thanks largely to the hot hands of Ralph Francisco who rang in three long-range jumpers from behind the arc in the second quarter.
Mobil front man Jun Estolas was held to just a bucket in each of the first two frames as Banjo Basila and Marvin Rabauliman accounted for half of the team's production.
After the pause Mobil employed a much more physical defensive approach and clawed back into the game.
KFC/Taco Bell only managed to log four field goals in the third period and had to earn the rest of its spoils from the free throw line, while Mobil went to work at the other end and pulled within a point, 58-59, heading into crunch time.
Mobil's Elgene Mangali lit the wick with 7 points at the start of the third quarter and Ron Gamboa delivered 8 more to close the stanza. Bryl Alegre's four free throws led KFC/Taco Bell.
With a new life at the start of the final 10 minutes, Mobil finally staked its first lead of the game right away and went on to work out a 75-65 cushion halfway through the period, but KFC/Taco Bell remained hot in pursuit.
The latter trimmed it to a two-possession game at the two-minute warning and back-to-back basket by Joyner knotted the count at 80-all with 19 seconds left in regulation.
Mobil called timeout to set up one final play and received some help from the opposition as Estolas was granted a trip to the free throw line just three ticks before the buzzer. He got one shot to drop and the group fended off the inbounds pass to seal the deal.
Mobil's Gamboa and KFC/Taco Bell's Francisco led their respective squads with 16 points.
In the early game, KB Mart established a stout 29-12 advantage in the first period with a well-balanced attack fronted by Pete Lizama and Tim Wesley who tallied 6 markers apiece.
KB Mart did not let up and pressed on to a 46-25 lead at intermission
OCM's Ichitaro Faisao scrambled for 10 points in the first half, but KB Mart received contributions from a plethora of donors.
OCM's scoring production improved in the third quarter, but its defensive woes continued as KB Mart remained in control, 57-42, heading into the payoff period.
Despite only accruing 11 points in the third quarter, KB Mart still coasted to the sound victory.
Bernard Aquino led the victors with 20 points, while OCM's Ben Lisua finished with a team-high 14.
KB Mart 76 - Aquino 20, De Dios 10, Paraiso 9, Lizama 8, Wesley 8, Basa 7, Fitial 6, Norita 6, Ito 2.
OCM Corp. 67 - Lisua 14, Kenty 10, Faisao 10, Dela Rosa 9, Barrios 8, Lauron 6, Montes 4, Tenorio 4, Diaz 2.
Scoring by quarters: 29-12, 46-25, 57-42, 76-67.
Mobil 81 - Gamboa 16, De Guzman 13, Estolas 12, Mangali 12, Rabauliman 11, Basila 9, Peredo 7, Camacho 1.
KFC/Taco Bell 80 - Francisco 16, Joyner 14, Alegre 10, Aranda 8, Fernando 8, Palacios 8, De Guzman 7, Manglona 5, Abuel 4.
Scoring by quarters: 11-22, 30-44, 58-59, 81-80.