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Oilers advance; Blazers, Vipers force deciders

Oilers from the Eastern Province swept the best-of-three series with Dragons to become the first regional semifinalist in the TFC Kingdom Cup basketball tournament.
Experience prevailed over youth as the Oilers won Game 2 92-80 on Friday at the Al-Qadisia Sports Club stadium.
The Oilers, who won the series opener 91-86 the previous week, now await the winners of the series in the central and western regions that both went to a deciding third game to be played today.
From six teams the field will be cut by half to three for the double round robin home-and-away semifinals where the two teams with the best record to dispute the national title in a best-of-three series in November.
In Riyadh, Blazers edged Stars 78-77 on marginal points by Jun Perez and Richard Asay in a Game 2 thriller that leveled the series at 1-1 at the Al-Yamama Hotel court on Friday. The Fil-Am James Smith-led Stars took the first game by 89-67.
The western region series, as expected, was extended to a Game 3 but not after the Vipers even at full-strength were made to endure a big fourth quarter comeback by Friendster in a 96-90 victory before a banner crowd at the NAI-Juffali Compound court in Jeddah’s Bawadi District.
The Vipers stepped on the court with high hopes of avenging their 100-92 first game defeat at Sheraton Hotel Complex court. But their hopes were nearly dashed as the gritty Friendster doggedly climbed out of an 18-point hole in the third quarter and dragged veteran coach Boy “4GS” Corsega and the Vipers to an excruciating endgame battle.
In the end, breaks in the last 40 seconds decided the outcome with a steal by Ryan Aguam and key rebounds by Raymond Matias and Mursi Akad fueling a 6-0 Vipers windup.
The transition game worked well for the Vipers as they twice posted an 18-point lead, 73-55 and 75-57, with 2:41 in the third period.
But the Vipers’ troubles started when the hard-nosed Friendster defender AJ Junsay got the goat of premier point guard Robby David and forced him to foul out with still 8:32 to play in the fourth quarter.
With Corsega shouting himself hoarse and pacing up and down the sidelines, Cris Melebo’s Friendster squad used a 12-3 run to pull within two, 82-80, from 79-68 at the end of the third quarter.
Vipers had nursed an 85-84 lead when an uncontested basket in the lane by Yoyong Akmad and Chrisian Guimpatan free-throws sandwiched a pair of charities by Matias before Guimpatan added two more free throws to give Friendster a two-point lead 89-87. In the succeeding plays Vipers missed three of four free throws but Akad converted his to tie the game at 90 while Mark Basa on the other end earlier split his charities.
Freindster then missed three field goals before Aguam stole off Guimpatan, fed Akad on the break and put back Akad’s undergoal stab for the Vipers’ go-ahead basket. On the next trip Matias pulled a defensive rebound following successive misses by Akmad and Guimpatan and made one of two free throws off a foul by Guimpatan 93-90. Akad then rebounded a JR Piedra miss before another Akad free throw sealed the game for Vipers 94-90, with 16 ticks left.
Center Joseph Ubalde finished with 24 points for Vipers, Ron Magat added 18, Matias had 16 while big Mark Elamparo, who also enjoyed a good game, contributed 12.
Veterans Omar Asmad, Jessie Cabanayan and Wene Datuputi as well as former Sta. Lucia Realtor Melvin Mamaclay carried the game for the Oilers who led all the way against the young Dragons squad which got a big lift from Fil-Am Matthew Carney.