Bulacan played the spoiler, dashing Manila’s playoff hopes via a 98-89 win in the Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Invitational at the Mall of Asia Arena on Monday.
The win by the Kuyas (2-3) dropped the Stars (3-2) to the third spot, knocking them out of the playoffs.
With the development, Mindoro-EOG Burlington (4-1) will take the last playoff spot in Pool D while Imus-Buracai de Laiya (4-1), who won its head-to-head matchup against the Tamaraws, ended up as the top seed.
The Tamaraws will face the second seed of Pool B that has Basilan (3-0), Bicol (3-1), and Makati (2-1) still remaining in contention while the top-ranked team takes on the Bandera. If Makati defeats Basilan by more than 10 points later in the day, Basilan will be eliminated.
“Sinabi ko lang na walang pressure sa amin kasi no bearing na yun sa amin,” said Bulacan assistant coach Don Villamin, who filled in for coach Ralph Rivera as he is still grieving the death of Ato Badolato. “Pero sabi nga namin, sana bago mag exit yung team namin, maganda na galing sa panalo.”
Leading by as much as nine points 90-81, Bulacan saw their lead dwindle to just four, 92-88, with 39 ticks remaining.
James Martinez split his charities to turn the game into a two-possession ballgame.
On the other end, Brent Paraiso split his charities.
Frustration through mounted for the Stars after a 50-50 call went in favor of Bulacan. A team official from Manila was called for a tech for using profane language that led to three free throws which Bryan Faundo and Martinez converted to ice the game.
Martinez fired 31 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go along with eight assists and six rebounds for Bulacan.
Faundo provided 17 points and 12 rebounds while Jack Hoyohoy contributed 14 points and 11 boards.
On the other hand, John Ambulodto, who only missed one field goal in the match, finished with 24 points and seven rebounds.
Dan Sara and Carlo Lastimosa each had 14 markers while Paraiso added 11 points.
Bulacan 98 – Martinez 31, Faundo 17, Hoyohoy 14, Dela Cruz 8, Inigo 7, Escosio 6, Caspe 4, Neypes 3, Arim 3, Marquez 3, Teodoro 2.
Manila 89 – Ambulodto 24, Sara 14, Lastimosa 14, Paraiso 11, Mangahas 7, Villanueva 4, Lopez 4, Dyke 4, Importante 3, Bataller 2, Cruz 2, Asuncion 0.
Quarterscores: 8-18, 33-43, 64-63, 98-89.