Behind the all-around brilliance of Mark Cruz, Pampanga sealed its playoff berth after handing the also-ran Rizal-Xentro Mall a 20-point beating, 90-70, in the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Season at Ynares Arena in Pasig, Thursday.
The pint-sized Cruz stuffed the stat sheet with a triple-double of 10 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. His performance helped Pampanga forge a two-way tie with Bulacan for the fourth spot of the North Division with identical 18-9 win-loss cards.
Already up by 12 points entering the second half, Pampanga unleashed an 18-8 rally capped off by Reil Cervantes three-pointer. It then chalked up its biggest lead of the ball game at 23, 58-35, in the 3:52 mark of the third period.
Rizal was still able to cut it to 12 via a Buenaventura Raflores three-pointer with 2:34 in the fourth frame, 67-79. That was the closest it could get, though, as Raymond Binuya, Mark Cruz, and Dan Alberto slammed the doors with an 8-2 spurt.
“Ang target namin is to go one game at a time; try to win as much as we can hanggang matapos kasi nag-po-positioning tayo eh sa positioning ngayon eh. Sa ‘kin, kahit sino ang makalaban namin, ang importante ay gawin namin ‘yung part namin,” said Pampanga head coach Bong Ramos
Michale Juico spearheaded the Giant Lanterns’ offensive assault with 19 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field, alongside eight rebounds and two assists. Meanwhile, Levi Hernandez added 14 points.
On the other hand, Rizal was led by Kelvin Gregorio with 21 points and eight rebounds. Golden Coolers team captain Mark Benitez chipped in 10 markers and five boards.
Rizal dropped to a 4-21 standing also in the North Division.
Pampanga (90) – Juico 19, Hernandez 14, Cruz 10, Cervantes 9, Maiquez 9, Baltazar 7, Binuya 7, Gomez 6, Muyang 4, Alberto 3, Acuno 2, Baltazar 0, Enriquez 0, Fabian 0, Salcedo 0
Rizal-Xentro Mall (70) – Gregorio 21, Benitez 10, Raflores 9, Hoyohoy 7, Leynes 5, Casajeros 5, Saliente 5, Bacay 3, Regalado 3, Butel 0, Raflores 0, Rosales 0
Quarterscores: 15-18, 39-27, 66-47, 90-70
Story by Jonash Dannug
Photo by Thel Suliva