Cervantes hits stride as Manila ousts Bataan
Former pro Reil Cervantes sparkled down the stretch, pouring 10 of his 20 points in the final period to propel the Manila Stars to a 56-51 victory over top seed Bataan and a finals seat in the North division of the MPBL Datu Cup at Bataan People’s Center in Balanga City.
On a night when two teams struggled to make shots, it was Cervantes’ brilliance in crunch time that spelled the difference for the Stars, who fought back from a 0-1 series deficit by taking Games 2 and 3 to advance to the finals against the San Juan Knights.
As the No. 3 seed in the North, the Knights hold homecourt advantage in the best-of-three series with Game 1 set at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan on Thursday.
Manila coach Philip Cezar was pleased at the way the Stars fought through adversity in the series with the Risers, who lost only twice in the regular season.
“I think we’re capable of winning it all as long as the team works hard and sticks together,” said Cezar in Filipino. “But it will be a very interesting series against San Juan.”
It was a disappointing finish to a spectacular regular season for the Risers, who once held the league record of 14 straight wins. Three of the four losses of Bataan this season came at the hands of Manila.