MPBL: Clutch Suerte carries Batangas to victory; Pampanga clinches playoff berth
ABS-CBN Sports on Jan 24, 2020 09:52 AM
Rey Suerte – who scored Batangas’ last eight points – finished the game with 13 points, five assists, and four rebounds for the Athletics.
Rey Suerte showed nerves of steel, towing Batangas City-Tanduay to a tight 72-68 victory over Navotas-Unipak Sardines in the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Season at the Ynares Sports Arena, Thursday.
Down by two points, Suerte fired a three-pointer from the left wing before fishing a foul off Navotas’ Kojack Melegrito which led to two free throws which gave Batangas a three-point advantage, 69-66, with 1:39 left in the game.
Osama Abdurasad’s lay-up with 39.4 seconds left trimmed the Athletics’ lead to one. However, Suerte once again came to Batangas’ defense, converting a trey on the same spot to push the lead back to four points, 72-68, with 16 seconds remaining.
Abdurasad missed a three-pointer while Jason Melano stole the ball off a pass from Joesel Prudente to seal the deal for the Athletics.
“We really need it sa standings and especially for the people of Batangas, atleast kahit papaano napa-smile namin sila. Kahit kaunti. [But] we’re still trying to figure out how to win,” said Batangas head coach Woody Co.
Suerte – who scored Batangas’ last eight points – finished the game with 13 points, five assists, and four rebounds for the Athletics, who are now in a three-way logjam in the fifth spot of the South Division with Iloilo and Zamboanga, possessing identical 16-11 cards.
Melano delivered 12 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, and a block while Ryusei Koga and Jeff Viernes chipped in 12 and 11 points in the victory.
Mark Guillen and Elmer Cabahug, meanwhile, led Navotas with 13 points apiece. The Unipak Sardines-backed squad dropped to a 7-21 standing in the North Division.
In the earlier game, San Juan-Go for Gold averted a major collapse, escaping gutsy Iloilo, 70-67.
With his team down by 12 points in the final frame, IloIlo’s Rey Publico poured in five points in a crucial 12-1 blast including a putback which sliced the Knights’ lead to a solitary point, 67-68, with 59 seconds remaining in the game.
The Royals then forced a shot clock violation on the defending champions which paved the way for a floater from Aaron Jeruta which, unfortunately, was blocked by Mike Ayonayon.
Jhonard Clarito, who was fouled by Alfrancis Tamsi with 3.2 seconds left, drained two clutch free throws to give San Juan a three-point cushion. Publico missed a potential game-tying three-pointer with 2.4 ticks which spelled doom for IloIlo.
“Sabi ko nga, a win is a win. Pero siyempre, IloIlo ‘yan. May sistema, lahat kumpleto, coaching staff, players. Bigay ko yung credit sa kanila, ready talaga sila buti na lang na-shoot ni Jhonard [Clarito] yung huli,” said San Juan head coach Randy Alcantara.
Clarito pumped in 22 points, eight rebounds, and four steals for the league-leading San Juan, who now stands at 24-3 in the Northern Division – a game behind second-running Manila-Frontrow.
John Wilson chipped in 12 points on a horrid 4-of-17 clip laced with eight rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Orlan Wamar also had 12 markers while Ayonayon finished the game with 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists.
Former Letran stalwart Publico finished with a double-double performance of 17 points and 10 rebounds for the 16-11 IloIlo, who is now tied with Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines for the fifth spot in the South Division.
Richard Escoto provided 13 points, five assists, four rebounds, and four steals while Tamsi had 10 points and four rebounds in a losing effort.
In the first contest, behind the all-around brilliance of Mark Cruz, Pampanga sealed its playoff berth after handing the also-ran Rizal-Xentro Mall a 20-point beating, 90-70.
The pint-sized Cruz stuffed the stat sheet with a triple-double of 10 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds, helping Pampanga forge a two-way tie with Bulacan in the fourth spot of the North Division with identical 18-9 win-loss cards.
Already up by 12 points entering the second half, Pampanga unleashed an 18-8 rally capped off by Reil Cervantes three-pointer to chalk up its biggest lead of the ball game at 23, 58-35, in the 3:52 mark of the third period.
Rizal was able to cut it to 12 via a Buenaventura Raflores three-pointer with 2:34 in the fourth frame, 67-79, but it’s the closest they could get as Raymond Binuya, Mark Cruz, and Dan Alberto slammed the doors with an 8-2 spurt.
“Ang target namin is to go one game at a time, try to win as much as we can hanggang matapos kasi nag po-positioning tayo e sa positioning ngayon e. Sakin, kahit sino ang makalaban namin ang importante ay gawin namin yung part namin,” said Pampanga head coach Bong Ramos
Michale Juico spearheaded the Giant Lanterns’ offensive assault with 19 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field on top of eight rebounds and two assists while Levi Hernandez added 14 points.
Rizal – who dropped to a 4-21 standing also in the North Division – was led by Kelvin Gregorio with 21 points and eight rebounds. Golden Coolers team captain Mark Benitez chipped in 10 markers and five boards.
Pampanga (90) – Juico 19, Hernandez 14, Cruz 10, Cervantes 9, Maiquez 9, Baltazar 7, Binuya 7, Gomez 6, Muyang 4, Alberto 3, Acuno 2, Baltazar 0, Enriquez 0, Fabian 0, Salcedo 0
Rizal-Xentro Mall (70) – Gregorio 21, Benitez 10, Raflores 9, Hoyohoy 7, Leynes 5, Casajeros 5, Saliente 5, Bacay 3, Regalado 3, Butel 0, Raflores 0, Rosales 0
Quarterscores: 15-18, 39-27, 66-47, 90-70
San Juan-Go-for-Gold (70) – Clarito 22, Wilson 12, Wamar 12, Ayonayon 11, Aquino 8, Rodriguez 4, Bunag 1, Victoria 0, Reyes 0, Isit 0, Subido 0, Estrella 0, Tajonera 0
IloIlo-United (67) – Publico 17, Escoto 13, Tamsi 10, Prado 7, Jaboneta 4, Arambulo 4, Jeruta 3, Gumaru 3, de Joya 3, Mahari 0, Rodriguez 0, Pantin 0, Racho 0
Quarterscores: 16-20, 42-33, 61-51, 70-67
Batangas City-Athletics (72) – Suerte 14, Melano 12, Koga 12, Viernes 11, Olivares 7, Grimaldo 5, Santos 4, Sara 3, Tungcab 3, Bragais 2, Rogado 0
Navotas-Unipak Sardines (68) – Guillen 13, Cabahug 13, Taywan 11, Gonzales 6, Melegrito 5, Bondoc 5, Abdurasad 5, Matillano 4, Andaya 4, Bautista 2, Evangelista 0, Prudente 0
Quarterscores: 17-10, 34-31, 51-58, 72-68