A resurgent Sabay Tiger Mosquitoes edged out Emperors 59-57 in the first of their three-game quarter-final playoff series in the Angkor Beer Cambodian Basketball League at the Olympic Stadium Indoor Arena on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, top ranked Davies Paints went one game up on CCPL Warriors with a 94-69 win built around stellar performances from Janno Cunanan and Aimar Sabayo.
When they took the court, the Mosquitoes had a point to prove that their 55-25 win over Emperors last Wednesday in the final round-robin game was no flash in the pan. On the other hand, the second ranked Emperors were equally keen to show that they were not their true selves in that defeat, having rested some of the key players.
These extraordinary set of circumstances contrived to produce a game full of drama and exciting twists.
After getting off to a good start, the Mosquitoes made their size count by taking an 11-point half time advantage.
While Kim Vengngoun pushed the Emperors in offence, Steve Chunn kept the Mosquitoes going in the third quarter so that they could hold on to their lead.
The intensity was quite high deep into the final session as the Emperors crept closer to the Mosquitoes. With 40 seconds left of the 10-minute quarter, Hour Pichbounchour made the best of a steal and brought the Emperors to within one basket of knotting up the scores.
But on the flip side, the Emperors were also committing quick fouls to stop the clock and put the Mosquitoes on the free throw line. Both Steven Chunn and Andy Pontius kept their nerve and turned those crucial free throws into winning baskets for the Mosquitoes.
A speedy start by Paints saw them taking firm control of the first quarter even as Sabayo came into his own in the second with some crafty play under the rim.
The Warriors suffered an unexpected blow on the court when one of their starting five, Ray Cabrera, was elbow checked by Paints’ Nigel Doughan leading to a bleeding injury. The game, however, resumed after a long break as Cabrera got medical attention but there was no respite for the Warriors.
The Paints were pushing faster in transitions and Sabayo, with a little help, stretched the lead to 39-26 to an eventual half-time score of 50-34.
The Warriors were quickly under pressure in the third quarter as Paints opened up a huge gap which kept widening, despite Fred Babida doing his bit to reduce the margin.
Davies Paints 94 (Janno Cunanan 27, Aimar Sabayo 25, John Cornito 13) CCPL Warriors 59 (Fred Babida 18, Jeff Cruz 15. David Sanders 13)
Sabay Tiger Mosquitoes 59 (Jeff Kane 12, Steve Chunn 10, Colin Meyn 9) Emperors 57 (Hour Pichbounchour 14, Kim Vengngoun 14, Monh Ratana 10)