Iloilo opened the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Invitational powered by TM with an 83-77 victory over newcomer and regional rival Negros at the SM Mall of Asia Arena Saturday in Pasay City.
Chito Jaime topscored for Iloilo with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field to go along with two rebounds to secure the bragging rights.
Despite leading by as much as 13 points, the United Royals had to fend off a tough stand by the Muscovados in the final frame to prevail.
Jafet Claridad, who was fouled by Donald Gumaru, drained a huge trey but missed the freebie to cut Iloilo’s 10-point advantage to seven, 73-80, with 1:14 left on the clock.
“Masaya at nabigyan ulit tayo ng opportunity. Napakasaya siyempre, napakasaya,” said United Royals head coach Eric Gonzales.
Homegrown star Aaron Jeruta tallied 12 points, six assists, and four boards for the United Royals while Gumaru also had 12 markers and four rebounds.
Vito chipped in 11 points off the bench while JP Maguliano had a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds in his first game for Iloilo.
Despite bagging their first win, Gonzales was far from satisfied, saying: “Talagang work in progress. Ang basa ko kasi 50 percent pa lang sila. We’re trying to fast track everything pero sa totoo lang, kita mo naman sandali lang hindi mo mababad yung mga player na gusto mo mababad.”
Claridad paced Negros with 19 points spiked by five triples.
Iloilo will take on Pasig next on Monday.
ILOILO 83 – Jaime 18, Jeruta 12, Gumaru 12, Vito 11, Maguliano 10, Hernandez 8, Iñigo 5, Mahari 3, Taywan 2, Javelosa 2, Santiago 0, Bederi 0
NEGROS 77 – Claridad 19, Santillan 13, Adjei 12, Dinolan 8, Maestre 6, Gadon 3, Adorio 2, Jaca 2, Yulo 2, Geolingo 0, Macion 0
Quarters: 25-19, 48-39, 61-60, 83-77