Team Batangas have also joined the Marinerong Pilipino in the next stage, pulling off a gutsy 95-88 victory over Gamboa Coffee Lovers, Thursday evening at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Cedric de Joya showed that height isn’t really might, as he uncorked 31 points and eight assists in the win, 11 coming in the last 4:02 of the game as the Batangueños crawled back from an 81-75 deficit and book their ticket to the quarterfinals.
“Masaya na ako dito, pero we have to continue playing the right way,” said coach Eric Gonzales, who has accomplished his goal of leading Batangas to the playoffs in their second conference in the league.
Cedric Ablaza unfurled 17 markers, seven rebounds, and three dimes, Jhaps Bautista went 3-of-8 from threes to finish with 15 points, four boards, and two assists, and John Ragasa got 11.
The Batangueños can nab the fourth seed, which comes with a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals, with a victory over league-leader Flying V or if CEU lose their final game against the also-ran Racal Motors on Tuesday.
Batangas had to deal with a motivated Gamboa side, which showed tons of fight in their last elimination game.
Jett Vidal drained two triples to put the Coffee Lovers up, 81-75 with 4:02 remaining, before De Joya triggered the late-game rescue for the Batangueños. Bautista and Jhygruz Laude later joined him in the heist, connecting with the go-ahead baskets in the last two minutes to seal the deal.
Gonzales attributed his side’s poor start to immaturity, saying, “Baka di lang sila sanay sa playoff game. Yun ang major concern kasi halos lahat sila, walang experience. So we really had to remind them what we have to do to adjust in-game.”
Playing-coach Leo Avenido anchored his crew with 22 points, four rebounds, and three assists, while Vidal shot 14 for the cellar-dwelling Gamboa Coffee Mix (1-9), who exit the tourney on a nine-game losing skid.
Batangas 95 – De Joya 31, Ablaza 17, Bautista 15, Ragasa 11, Laude 7, Dela Peña 4, Zamora 4, Anderson 2, Isit 2, Mendoza 2, Mag-isa 0, Napoles 0, Saitanan 0.
Gamboa Coffee 88 – Avenido 22, Vidal 14, Jumao-as 12, Montuano 12, Parala 12, Acibar 6, Padilla 6, Arellano 2, Sarangay 2, Riva 0.
Quarterscores: 23-22, 39-43, 68-64, 95-88.