BACOOR CITY — Reigning MVP Gab Banal sat out Game Two of their 2020 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan semifinals series against third seed due to a sprained left MCL.
With their main gunner out, second seed Bacoor needed someone to fill the void to force a winner-take-all Game Three.
Luckily, Strikers coach Chris Gavina’s gamble of fielding unusual starters in Eric Acuña, Nick Demusis, Mark Pangilinan, King Destacamento, and Mark Montuano paid dividends.
Led by his bench players-turned-starters, Bacoor raced to a 20-6 first quarter. It eventually saw its lead swell to 27, 37-10.
“I really just liked ‘yung energy nila noong Game One saka noong practice. At this point, I feel like energy can propel us to success.”
But when Basilan came back from a 22-point hole in the payoff period, Montuano stood the tallest for Bacoor.
In a midst of a 25-10 counter by the Steel — bringing them within seven with 1:21 left, 76-69 — Montuano scored six of those 10 markers for the Strikers, keeping his team afloat and their foes at the bay.
Bacoor managed to outlast Basilan, 80-69, to knot the series at the Strike Gym here, Thursday.
“Kailangan ko lang talagang makatulong kasi nahahabol na kami, tapos wala pang umiiscore sa amin. So sabi sa akin ni coach, kailangan maka-score ako, kailangan namin pumuntos,” said the burly 6-foot-2 forward who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Come the decider, the Informatics College product vowed to display the same intensity they have in the series equalizer.
“Ibibigay namin ang lahat. Go hard kasi kung matalo kami, wala nang bukas eh. Kahit anong mangyari, masaktan man kami, lalaban kami hanggang makuha namin ‘yung panalo.”
In the other semis matchup, South king Davao Occidental-Cocolife advanced to the division finals after escaping Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines, 62-58.
Story by Justin Valencia
Photo by Nicks Hernandez