MPBL playoffs: Davao, Zamboanga close in on 2nd round duel
DAVAO CITY – Reigning South division champion Davao Occidental turned back a stubborn Bicol squad, 77-71, Monday night to close in on a second round clash with Zamboanga in the Chooks-To-Go MPBL Lakan playoffs at Rizal Memorial Colleges Gym here.
Mark Yee finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Billy Robles came alive in the second half with 11 points and nine boards as the top seeded Tigers shook off a slow start to grab the headstart in the best of three series.
Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines also moved within a victory of the second round after overcoming No. 4 Batangas City Athletics-Tanduay, 78-74, at the start of their series.
Playing in his hometown, Alvin Pasaol sparkled with 17 points, while Aaron Black contributed 11 points, including seven in the final period as Zamboanga sent Batangas to the brink of elimination.
Both Davao and Zamboanga can forge a South division semifinal showdown with victories in Game 2 on Friday at Batangas State U Gym in Batangas City.
Against a Bicol team that had nothing to lose, the Tigers trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half on Ronjay Buenafe’s triple.
But coach Don Dulay’s charges came out with renewed vigor after the halftime break, outscoring the Volcanoes, 28-17, in the third period.
Davao drew some big plays on both ends from Robles, who had three blocks and five offensive rebounds in the second half.
Yee remained a constant source of strength even with Davao’s struggles as the former pro accounted for 10 of Davao’s 27 first half points.
The Volcanoes had the Tigers on the ropes, silencing the home crowd in the first two periods.
But the second half proved to be a different story as the Tigers finally clicked on offense, while neutralizing Bicol’s gunners.
Joseph Terso’s triple with 1:38 remaining gave Davao a 74-67 lead but the Volcanoes refused to quit, pulling to within three points following back to back baskets by Jerome Garcia with 26 ticks left.
Yvan Ludovice who struggled in the first half stepped up to nail insurance free throws with 19 seconds remaining, preserving the victory for Davao.
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