Strikers, Steel close in on MPBL semifinals
(The Philippine Star) - February 21, 2020 - 12:00am

BACOOR, Philippines — Bacoor City and Basilan - Jumbo Plastic made short work of their counterparts and moved on the threshold of the Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Season semifinals Wednesday night at the Strike Gym. 

Reigning MVP Gab Banal hauled down a huge 20-11 double-double to power the Strikers past GenSan-Burlington, 95-72, while Jhaps Bautista fired 21 markers in the Steel’s 83-68 victory over Iloilo.

Banal, the league’s best player in Datu Cup last year, added three rebounds and two steals as Michael Mabulac (15) and Oping Sumalinog (13) were also instrumental for Bacoor which unleashed a hot 20-4 start en route to the win. 

With Ian Melencio and RJ Ramirez throwing in 10 points apiece, the second-seed Bacoor took the headstart in the best-of-three quarterfinal series. The Strikers have a chance next Monday to advance to the semis against the winner of the Basilan-Iloilo duel. 

“In our last game against GenSan, their guards got going early. That’s why we neutralized the ability of their guards to attack us inside in this time,” said Bacoor mentor Chris Gavina.

The Steel, even without Gilas Pilipinas training pool member Allyn Bulanadi,  took care of business behind Bautista and the support of Hesed Gabo (10) and Dennis Daa (10). 

“We really had a good first quarter so I just told the boys to sustain it for 40 minutes to avert a possible Iloilo comeback. I said that we just need to weather the storm and we did,” said Basilan coach Jerson Cabiltes as the Steel broke the game wide open with a 22-10 opening salvo.

Only Jasper Parker and Ryan Arambulo with 11 and 10 points, respectively, came fighting for No. 6 United Royals. 

The third-ranked Basilan looks to set up a quick semis battle with Bacoor with a potential closeout on its turf Monday at the Basilan City Gym.

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