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Bataan nears top seed; Zamboanga moves up in MPBL


MANILA — The Bataan Risers moved closer to taking the top seed in the Northern Division Playoffs of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Datu Cup after prevailing on the road against the Marikina Shoemasters, 81-64, at the Marist School Gymnasium in Marikina City on Monday night.

Bataan showed why it holds the best record this MPBL season, starting the game with six straight points and quickly building a double-digit lead.

The team eventually stretched it to as high as 23 points before holding Marikina down the stretch.

Yvan Ludovice fired 13 points, five rebounds, five assists, and one steal off the bench for the Risers, who moved up to 21-2.

Gary David put up 12 points and two rebounds, while Vince Tolentino added 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, and one block.

They can try sealing the top seed in the North — and the entire playoffs — with a home win against the Parañaque Patriots on February 28.

Ronald Roy put up 16 points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals off the bench for the now 8-15 Shoemasters, although he shot 5-of-17 from the field.

Ato Ular added a double-double of 11 markers and 14 boards.

The loss dropped the Shoemasters to a tie with the Patriots for 10th place in the Southern Division.

In the process, Marikina also fell to the brink of joining Rizal and Basilan as outright eliminated teams.

In the first game, Zamboanga Rapido’s late surge continued after subduing Cebu City Sharks, 61-58.

The Rapidos recovered from a sluggish first half and bombarded the Sharks in the final quarter to move up in the South standings.

Aiming for one last push to make the Top 4 in the South, Cebu City banked on its defense to thwart Zamboanga, only conceding 20 points the entire first half.

The Sharks even threatened to pull away in the third quarter, going on an 8-0 run to lead by 11 points, 38-27.

However, the Rapidos started the fourth quarter strongly, going on a 13-4 run to take a 49-47 lead.

Rhaffy Octobre gave Cebu City the lead back, 50-49, with a three-pointer only for Ryan Buenafe to respond with his own trey to put Zamboanga back up, 52-50.

The game remained tight, and even a 54-all deadlock was forced with 3:12 left in the game.

But the Rapidos scored four straight points to go ahead, 58-54, with 2:22 to play.

Will McAloney was rewarded following a block on Allan Santos by scoring a layup in the next play to trim the gap to just two, 58-56, with 1:58 remaining.

Santos somehow failed to make up for letting the block happen as he only made a split from the free throw line as Zamboanga was holding to a precarious three-point lead, 59-56, with 1:21 left.

Octobre then found Patrick Cabahug for a clutch jumper that drew Cebu City to within one point, 58-59, with 1:02 remaining.

The team then got a chance to reclaim the lead as it forced Robin Roño to a turnover with 48 seconds on the clock, but Octobre missed a field goal.

Jaybie Mantilla, however stole the ball from Reed Juntilla following the latter’s rebound, giving his squad 15 seconds to steal the win.

However, Mantilla failed to convert a quick jumper off the timeout, and Buenafe made two free throws stretch the lead back to three with six seconds left.

Cabahug had one final scare as he tried to force overtime, but he missed the potential equalizer from three-point range before time expired.

Buenafe finished with 13 points, six rebounds, three assists, and one block for the Zamboanga, which now holds the solo seventh spot in the South at 10-12, forcing a virtual tie with its victim (11-13) in the process.

Ivan Villanueva added 12 points, five rebounds, one assist, and one steal off the bench, while Juntilla made 11 markers, two rebounds, two dimes, and one steal.

Edrian Lao made 12 points, five boards, and one dime for Cebu City. (PNA)