Upsets, close encounters mark MPBL quarterfinals
Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - March 15, 2019 - 1:53pm

MANILA, Philippines – After a long and seemingly interminable season, the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup quarterfinals is on.

Four of the six higher seeds that played their first matches won while two were not able to escape the upset axe.

Prevailing were the Bataan Risers over the Caloocan Supremos, 91-71. The Manila Stars squeaked past the Bulacan Kuyas, 69-65, while the San Juan Knights went through the ringer before prevailing over the Navotas Clutch, 81-76. The Davao Occidental Tigers bulldozed the Cebu City Sharks, 82-67.

Falling were the Makati Super Crunch, who lost to the Quezon City Capitals, 88-77, while the Bacoor Strikers pulled the rug from under the Gen San Warriors, 90-80.

The two remaining first round series — Zamboanga-Muntinlupa and Batangas-Imus — will be played this March 16 and 19.

Those results make the Capitals and the Strikesas the only teams thus far to get back at an elimination round tormentor.

This Makati-QC series is intriguing because these two played each other last February 25, as the last elimination round assignment of the Super Crunch who romped to a 102-78 win.

The Capitals played two more games — a 75-68 win over Cebu and a 120-105 loss to Navotas last March 7.

In some ways, despite owning a 1-2 record heading into the quarterfinals, Quezon City was still in “shape” with a six-day rest before meeting up with Makati. The Super Crunch were off for 16 days and although there were practices and friendlies in between, the long layoff can dull one’s sword because of rust. Hence, the upset axe. One can also say that Makati took QC lightly because the Capitals are one of two teams in the north division with a sub-.500 record. And they massacred them in their last outing.

And now, Makati’s backs are against the wall against QC.

GenSan humbled Bacoor, 82-71, at the latter’s home court at the Strike Gymnasium last March 4. Fortunately for the Warriors, they are heading home to the Lagao Gymnasium where they hope to hold serve and send the series to a deciding match. 

Of the two remaining series that will just get underway, the question is — can the lower seeds (Zamboanga and Imus) also pull off upsets?

Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines (12-12) vs Muntinlupa Cagers (14-10). When these two teams met early in the season, Muntinlupa prevailed, 85-69, at the neutral ground of the Marist Gym. They’ll once more play in a neutral area of the Batangas City Coliseum.

And that brings us to the Batangas Athletics (14-10) vs Imus Bandera (10-14). The Athletics won in the final minute of their match up against Imus, 96-93, last January 15 at the Batangas State University Gymnasium. The Athletics sported a sizeable lead until midway through the fourth period when the Bandera mounted one last rally. Imus sniper Wilson Baltazar who played for Lyceum in the NCAA missed a triple with five seconds left that would have sent the game into overtime.

Of the two teams, I’d say Zamboanga has a slight chance of pulling an upset.

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