PHILIPPINE Air Force pulled off a king-size upset in the 2016 MBL Open, shocking erstwhile unbeaten FEU-Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation, 84-82, on a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Rama Krishna Morales at the Aquinas gym.
Morales' game-winner provided a fitting ending to a seesaw battle that saw Air Force and FEU-NRMF exchange one big shot after the other in the tensely-fought fourth quarter.
Air Force took a 78-72 lead on a triple by Paulino Rebollos with two minutes left, but FEU-NRMF came charging back to wrest the upperhand at 82-81 on a 10-3 run highlighted by a long three-pointer by Fil-Canadian sensation Clay Crellin and a three-point play by Dexter Zamora with five seconds left
With no timeout left, Air Force rushed to bring the ball to the court and watched Morales hit a three-pointer from the right corner for the win in the tournament supported by Smart Sports, Ironcon Builders, Star Bread, Dickies Underwear and Gerry’s Grill.
The win was the first in two games for Air Force, which is being handled ny PAF Lt. Gen.Edgar Fallorina, Col. Elpidio Talja and LTC Nestor Etis and coaches Alvin Zuniga and Jimmy Andaya.
The Jet Force dropped a close 70-74 decision to NCAA member Emilio Aguinaldo College last Saturday.
Morales, who also played for Wang's Ballclub in the PBA D-League in 2014 and STI Colleges in the NAASCU from 2010-13, topscored for Air Force with 24 points.
Rebollos, who saw action for San Sebastian College, added 21 points, while Darwin Cordero, who played for Southern City Colleges-Zamboanga, contributed 13.
Overall, Air Force had 15 three-point shots -- seven by Rebollos, six by Morales and one each by Cordero and Raniel Jake Diwa.
Crellin, the high-leaping 6-4 standout from Vancouver Balloholics, led FEU-NRMF with 26 points, including eight in the third period.
Bright Akhuetie, the 6-8 Nigerian center from University of Perpetual Help, added 14 points and 10 rebounds and former Globalport Batang Pier mainstay Roider Cabrera had 11 points in a losing cause.
FEU-NRMF dropped to 4-1.
MBL Chairman Alex Wang said the top two teams after the single-round elimination will advance to the semis outright with twice-to-beat advantages.
The No. 3 and the No. 6 teams and the No. 4 team and No. 5 team will clash in a pair of knockout matches to determine the other two semifinalists.
The championship is a winner-take-all encounter.
Air Force (84) -- Morales 24, Rebollos 21, Cordero 13, Diwa 9, Tano 7, Casulla 6, Almerol 2, Malig-on 2, Regalado 0, Pinto 0, Ollano 0.
FEU-NRMF (82) -- Crellin 26, Akhuetie 14, Cabrera 11, Banzali 7, Rodriguez 6, Gabayne 6, Asoro 5, Zamora 3, Manalo 2, Eriobli 2, Tan 0.
Quarterscores: 10-13, 41-45, 63-60, 84-82. Ed Andaya