Beaten 71-78 in the first of the three-game finals a fortnight ago, Extra Joss Fighters produced their A-game in the must-win second to down Master Steak 108-100 earlier in the week to force the issue to Saturday’s decider in the CCC Summer Basketball Tournament.
The showdown tips off at 5pm with the Fighters desperate to break a jinx that has seen them crash out of three major finals over recent years.
Master Steak have their own demons to overcome. After winning the first game the side lost the next two allowing Smart Dragons to capture the Chitato Chips tournament. They are anxious to avoid a similar fate against the Fighters.
Nilo Candidato for the Fighters and Steak’s Fredjie Portades scored 27 points each in a game that was often held up due to score board errors from table officials.
Then came a bizarre twist when the table officials lost the accurate count in the heat of the contest.
From the Fighters being 41-37, the officials took the unusual step of revising the scores to 38-38, prompting the Fighters coach to threaten to walk out.
While the Fighters lost the initiative, Steak built up a seven-point half-time lead.
After the break, the Fighters regrouped and young Humphrey Gabriel dunked twice in quick order as he pushed his tally to 25 points.
The Fighters kept charging with Humphrey, Candidato and Sander giving the side a slender third quarter edge.
Steak ran into a strong Fighters defensive wall in the final quarter, cutting out the freewheeling Aimar Sabayo’s under basket threats.
With less than two minutes to go, the Fighters led by 10 points to make sure they live to fight the title decider.
“It will be good to finish on a high,” Gadaffi told The Post as the Fighters big man is set to retire after the finals.