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MPBL: Batangas advances to South Finals; Bacolod-Zamboanga goes to decider


Batangas City Embassy Chill dropped an 11-point bomb in the fourth quarter to subdue Rizal Xentromall, 72-66, on Saturday and barge into the South division finals at the Batangas City Coliseum.

Bacolod Bingo Plus, on the other hand, stunned Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines, 61-58, to force a Game 3 decider in their battle for the other finals slot.

With the count tied at 53, Batangas turned hot and pulled away at 64-53 behind the guns of Juneric Baloria, Mark Niel Cruz, MJ Dela Virgen, and Cedric Ablaza.

Rizal gave chase and came to within, 64-68, following a 6-point cluster by Jolo Mendoza and Alvin John Capobres.

The Golden Coolers’ effort fell short, however, as Levi Hernandez added a free throw and Dela Virgen two free throws with 21 seconds left to seal Batangas’ second straight win in the best-of-three semifinal series and a probable return to the national title (Anta Rajah Cup) which it won in the MPBL’s inaugural season in 2018.

Ablaza posted 19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks to earn best player honors. The 6-foot-3 banger was supported by Juneric Baloria with 13 points, three rebounds and three assists, and Dela Virgen with 10 points, five assists, and two rebounds.

Batangas Coach Cholo Villanueva gave credit to his rival mentor Jonathan Banal and the Golden Coolers for giving the Athletics “a hell of a series” and his wards, for not wanting “to go to Game 3.”

The Golden Coolers, who arrived at the venue just 30 minutes before the opening buzzer after their service bus overheated, got 18 points from Jolo Mendoza and 12 from Alvin John Capobres.

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As things stand now, Batangas will face the winner between Zamboanga and Bacolod in another best-of-three affair to determine the South division champion.

Given minimal chances after dropping the opening game against the favored Zamboanguenos, 65-71, the Bacolodnons banked on Alwyn Alday and Jayboy Solis to level the series at 1-1 and bring their semifinals series back to the Mayor Vitaliano Agan Coliseum in Zamboanga City for the do-or-die Game 3 on Tuesday.

Alday fired 21 points, including four triples, to earn best player honors. Veteran Mark Yee struck again with 11 points and 13 rebounds and so did Raymund Ilagan with 10 points and 12 rebounds for Bacolod.

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