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Imus nears playoff spot; Dionisio lifts Manila to home win


MANILA — The Imus Bandera placed one foot onto a spot in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Datu Cup playoff with a huge 113-108 win over Basilan Steel at the San Andres Sports Complex on Tuesday night.

With the comeback victory, the Bandera now has total control of their playoff fate as they can clinch a spot with another win.

Already out in the running, the Steel still put up a storm in the first quarter, dropping 40 on the Bandera, leading by as much as 22, and looking poised to score an upset.

But Imus went on a 29-8 run late in the second quarter to take a 63-62 lead before Jojo Tangkay scored a triple to give Basilan the lead back, 65-63, at halftime.

The Steel momentarily restored order after starting the third quarter with a 9-2 run to open a 74-65 cushion.

But a 15-5 response from the Bandera put them ahead anew, 80-79, and after an exchange of mini-spurts, they entered the fourth quarter with a 91-90 lead.

They then shut down the Steel in the fourth, only giving up 10 points in the first eight minutes and eventually stretching their lead to nine points before holding them off in the end.

Despite an off night field goal-wise, James Castro made up for it with his facilitating skills, dishing out seven dimes on top of 20 points and five rebounds for Imus, which is now a full game ahead of Biñan for eighth place in the Southern Division at 10-13.

JP Sarao added 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting, six rebounds, two assists, and one block, while Ian Melencio contributed 17 points, three rebounds, six assists, and two steals.

The Bandera can officially complete the playoff cast in the South with a virtual home win against the Zamboanga Rapidos on March 4 at the STRIKE Gymnasium in Bacoor.

Tangkay put up an MPBL career-high 31 points, while Cris Dumapig also had a career game with 20 for the Steel, which fell to 6-17.

In the main game, Aris Dionisio scored the winning shot as the Manila Stars repulsed Davao Occidental Tigers, 89-88.

In basically a no-bearing game as both sides already booked their places in the playoffs, Dionisio capped what had been a tight encounter with a layup with 18.3 seconds left as the Stars ended their regular season with their heads held high.

They were actually on track of pulling away after a 6-0 run gave them an 85-79 lead with 3:04 left.

But after a timeout, the Tigers answered with a 9-0 run to put them up, 88-85, with 45 seconds to go.

However, they began fizzling from there.

Cris Bitoon stole the ball from Joseph Terso and scored on a stop-and-pop long two that cut the lead down to one, 88-87, with 23.8 seconds remaining.

Dionisio then completed a steal off the inbound pass, and Marcy Arellano eventually found him cutting through the paint for the go-ahead basket.

Leo Najorda tried to steal the win for Davao Occ, but his triple rimmed out before time expired.

Bitoon and Dionisio each scored 17 points for Manila, which finished its campaign in the eliminations at 20-5.

Terso and Bonbon Custodio each had 22 markers for Davao Occ, which fell to 19-5. (PNA)