Tigers, Stars inch closer to national finals
DAVAO CITY—Top seed Davao Occidental neutralized Batangas City’s high-powered offense to come away with a 66-48 victory on Thursday night at the start of the South division finals of the MPBL Datu Cup at jampacked Almendras Gym here.
Ex-PBA players Bonbon Custodio and Mark Yee combined for 23 points, but it was the Tigers’ tremendous work on the defensive end that pushed the defending champion Athletics to the brink of elimination.
“We take pride on our defense, even if our offense isn’t clicking,” coach Don Dulay said. “But the [crowd] support here [in Davao] helped us a lot. It gave the players more energy.”
The Tigers held the battle-weary Athletics to just seven points in the opening period and to eight in the fourth quarter as they closed in on a national finals slot like Manila.
The Stars gained the head start in their own best-of-three series with the San Juan Knights after a thrilling 91-88 triumph at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Aris Dionisio finished with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds, but it was Reil Cervantes who once again came up with the game’s biggest shot—a triple with 1:19 left that pushed Manila’s lead to 90-85.
Dionisio helped wrap up the victory with two free throws with 32 seconds remaining as Manila stole home-court advantage against the third-seeded Knights.
The Stars can clinch the first finals berth with a win in Game 2 at San Andres Sports Complex on Saturday, while the Tigers have a tough task to close out the series with the Athletics at the Batangas City Coliseum, where the home team has yet to lose in the playoffs.
Batangas was playing its seventh game-two more than Davao-in the playoffs after getting dragged by Imus and Zamboanga to do-or-die matches in the earlier rounds.
Jeff Viernes typified the Athletics’ struggles with 3-of-15 shooting.
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