ANGELES, PAMPANGA — Pampanga protected home court, ending Nueva Ecija’s playoff hopes, 81-75, late Thursday night in the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season at the AUF Gym here.
Felix Apreku, who was held scoreless in the first three quarters, scored the Giant Lanterns’ last eight points, four via free-throws and four through strong layups to keep them afloat down the stretch.
Pampanga head coach Bong Ramos took the blame on why their once 42-24 lead early in the third canto dwindled down in the final frame.
“Noong nahabol kami, it’s my fault. Kasalanan ko yon kasi mayroon akong pinagbigyan na gagawin so kasalanan ko yon, akin yon,” said Ramos.
Trailing 53-61 in the fourth period, Nueva Ecija unleashed an 8-2 run to trim the deficit to just a single possession, 61-63, but Pampanga retaliated with a 7-2 counter-run to restore order, 70-63, with 3:05 on the clock.
The duo of Levi Hernandez and Michael Juico torched Nueva Ecija with the former tallying a career-high 29 points four rebounds and two steals while the latter wound up with 26 markers and 12 boards.
Pampanga zoomed to a 19-3 early advantage, courtesy of Hernandez’s scorching shooting, scoring 11 points in the process.
The Giant Lanterns capitalized in their transition offense, outscoring Nueva Ecija, 21-0.
Jai Reyes registered 15 points while JP Sarao got 13 markers and nine rebounds, as the Rice Vanguards fell to 7-17, putting an abrupt end to their playoff chances.
Pampanga 81 –Hernandez 29, Juico 26, Maiquez 8, Apreku 8, Cruz 7, Concepcion 3, Thompson 0, Acuno 0, Alberto 0, Cervantes 0, Baltazar 0, Binuya 0, Gomez 0.
Nueva Ecija 75 – Reyes 15, Sarao 13, Aquino 11, Arana 9, Martinez 8, Monte 5, Celada 5, Sabellina 5, Gonzaga 2, De Leon 2, Dela Cruz 0.
Quarterscores: 19-9, 36-24, 56-50, 81-75.
Story by Justin Valencia
Photo by Thel Suliva
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