Valenzuela-San Marino escaped past already-eliminated Pateros-MetroAsia, 101-97 to formally punch a semifinal ticket in the North Division of the Metro League Reinforced (Second) Conference Thursday night at the San Juan Gym.
The Workhorses led by as big as 21 points but still needed one last stand to repel the gritty Pateros and secure the big win that assured them a seat in the North Division semifinals of the M-League that is backed Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and with Barangay 143 as league presentor.
Now sporting a 5-3 card, Valenzuela moved up to solo second in the North Division and boosted its twice-to-beat hopes with still a game remaining on its schedule in the elimination round of the M-League that is also bankrolled by Synergy 88, World Balance, Excellent Noodles and San Miguel Corporation as major sponsors.
In the other game, playoff-bound Solid San Juan dragged Marikina on the brink of elimination after a 97-89 win.
Reneford Ruaya spearheaded Valenzuela’s attack with 20 points and seven rebounds while Marlon Kalaw also chipped in 14 markers in only 14 minutes of action.
Also stepping up big time for the import Hamadou Laminou-less Valenzuela were Jeric Diego and John Tayongtong who tallied 13 points apiece.
Josiah Jerold Esplana — son of head coach and PBA legend Gerry — also contributed 11 markers and two rebounds for Valenzuela which has a golden chance to steal the top seed from Quezon City (6-2) with their upcoming crucial match on June 4 at the Valenzuela City Astrodome.
Should the Workhorses lose though, they will slide down all the way to No. 3, paving way for Caloocan (4-4) to snatch the second spot for a twice-to-beat advantage owing to its 77-76 win earlier in the elimination round — so long as the Supremos also take care of their last game against Marikina on the same day.
On the other hand, Reiner Quinga dropped 22 markers and five dimes to lead five cagers scoring in double figures for the Metro Asia-backed squad but still proved to be insufficient in yet another loss.
Pateros finished its campaign with a 1-8 mark, and in last place in the South Division of the M-League which also has SMS Global Technologies, Inc. as official livestream and technology partner, Spalding as official ball, Team Rebel Sports as official outfitter, PLDT as official internet service provider and Manila Bulletin as media partner.
Buoyed by a homecourt advantage, Solid San Juan leaned on a 31-point third quarter eruption to put away the gritty Shoelanders with former Arellano U skipper Michael Canete setting the pace.
Canete finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds while American import Raymund Miller Jr. also added 25 markers and 17 rebounds for Solid San Juan which finished its campaign at 3-6 for fourth place in the South Division of the tourney that is also supported by Gerry’s Grill, Summit Water, Alcoplus, Nature’s Spring and Goodfellow.
Celebrity-athlete Gerald Anderson tallied 32 points and eight rebounds in a losing effort for Marikina fell further down the cellar of the North Division with its 1-6 slate.
With still two games left on its campaign though, Marikina still has a slim chance of advancing if it sweeps its last two games including the deciding battle for the fourth place in the North Division against Manila (3-5) on June 1.
Valenzuela-San Marino 101 –– Ruaya 20, Kalaw 14, Tayongtong 13, Diego 13, Esplana 11, Sta. Maria 7, Pascua 6, Monteclaro 5, Natividad 5, Rivera 5, Dela Cruz 2, Gamboa 0
Pateros-MetroAsia 97 — Quinga 22, Gerero 20, Mabzza 13, Arellano 12, Asis 12, Velchez 12, Marcial 4, Espiras 2, Go 0, Anasco 0, Pacleb 0,
Quaterscores: 26-23, 52-41, 83-62, 101-97
Solid San Juan 97 — Canete 29, Miller Jr. 25, Castro 17, Saret 9 Acol 8, Astrero 4, Ejercito 3, Matias 2, Abanes 0, Dada 0, Clarianes 0, Elarmo 0, Jacunap 0
Marikina 79 — Anderson 32, Marlon Basco 19, Mabigat 11, Mendoza 7, Deles 6, Po 2, Vargas 2, Gines 0, Catipay 0, Mario Basco 0
Quarterscores: 35-29, 47-47, 78-68, 97-79
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