MPBL: Batangas, Paranaque take semis openers

Published April 6, 2018, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

by Jerome Lagunzad

Games Saturday (Muntinlupa Sports Complex)
7 p.m. — Valenzuela vs Batangas
9 p.m. — Parañaque vs Muntinlupa

Host Batangas City continued its dominance while Parañaque sustained its giant-killing ways on Thursday night to close in on the 2018 Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Anta Rajah Cup finals.

Boosted by a huge hometown crowd inside the Batangas City Coliseum, the top-seeded Athletics overcame the loss of two vital cogs and leaned on another balanced attack to foil the fourth-ranked Valenzuela Classic, 80-75, at the start of the best-of-three semifinals series.

University of the East product Paul Varilla tallied 17 points while former pro Val Acuña added 15 points and Bong Quinto had 13 for Batangas City, which lost big men Alfie Grimaldo and Adi Santos to ejection for figuring in a physical altercation with Valenzuela forward Ford Ruaya in the opening minutes.

“I’m really expecting that (kind of physicality) because this is a dogfight. They’re also hungry (to come up with a win),” said Athletics coach Mac Tan, whose wards took control early on with a 30-8 start and kept their rivals at bay from then on.

Paranaque Patriots vs. Muntinlupa Cagers (photo from MPBL Facebook)
Paranaque Patriots vs. Muntinlupa Cagers (photo from MPBL Facebook)

Not to be outdone were the seventh-seeded Patriots, who pulled the rug from under the third-ranked Muntinlupa Cagers with a dominant 84-59 victory in the other semis pairing.

Former San Beda guard Ryusie Koga proved on target this time with 24 points, spiked by four triples, on top of eight assists and four rebounds while Gab Dagangon added 18 points, eight rebounds and two blocks to help Parañaque sustain its newfound confidence after eliminating No. 2 Bulacan Kuyas in the quarterfinals.

However, their sustained defensive pressure spelled the key for the Patriots, who shackled the Cagers early on, forcing them to out of their comfort zones that set the tone for an unexpected one-sided affair.

Dave Moralde had 16 points while Felix Apreku added 13 points and 11 rebounds, but top gun Allan Mangahas could only score 11 points on a rough 4-of-14 shooting from the field, underscoring Muntinlupa’s offensive struggles.

Former Arellano stalwart Adrian Celada led all scorers with 23 points, spiked by five treys, off the bench but his touted Valenzuela teammates, including veteran Paolo Hubalde, groped for form against Batangas’ stymieing defense.

The Athletics and the Patriots could formally arrange a best-of-three titular showdown with another pair of victories tonight when the action resumes at the Muntinlupa Sports Complex.