Streaking Pasay Voyagers thwarted the Iloilo United Royals’ final rally to prevail, 56-52, on Thursday in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League’s initial foray at University of San Agustin Gym here.
The Royals threatened for the last time at 52-54 after Eric Rodriguez split his charities, but Axel Inigo canned two free throws to seal the Voyagers’ seventh straight win that raised their record to 10-5 in the North division of the 31-team Lakan Season.
Trailing by as many as 14 points, 30-44, the Royals moved to within 50-51 following a 9-1 run fueled by Ryan Arambulo’s four points. Elvis Chan countered with a triple, however, silencing the crowd with still three minutes and 17 seconds to go.
Floor general Axel Inigo played big for the Voyagers with 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals while Elmar Moradas backed him up with 12 points.
The Royals, who got 12 points from Arambulo, dropped to 8-6 although they remained the best performer among the six expansion squads.
Valenzuela Classic-SPV Top Marketplace cruised to a 67-59 victory over the Mindoro Tamaraws in the opener.
Drawing a double-double 13 points and 13 rebounds from Jaymar Gimpayan and 12 points plus eight rebounds and eight assists from Paolo Hubalde, Valenzuela stormed ahead, 51-29, in the third quarter before coasting along the rest of the way to improve to 6-10.
The Tamaraws, with top gunners Rodel Vaygan and Mac Baracael unable to deliver, could only come to within 53-62 following an 8-point cluster.
Only Luigi Natada tallied twin digits for Mindoro with 12 as Vaygan scored eight and Baracael with six, pulling down the Tamaraws to a 6-9 slate.
While the Classic could only make 4-of-21 triple attempts, the Tamaraws did worse, sinking only 2-of-21 tries from deep.
Among the hundreds of spectators were MPBL founder Sen. Manny Pacquiao and wife Jinkee.
The MPBL crosses to Bacolod City on Saturday (Sept. 21) with Basilan tackling Davao Occidental at 6:30 p.m. and Bacolod battling Soccsksargen at 8:30 p.m.