Pampanga, South Cotabato collide for MPBL preseason crown

Pampanga, South Cotabato collide for MPBL preseason crown
John Wilson starred for South Cotabato witb 23 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter.

MANILA, Philippines – Pampanga and South Cotabato will dispute the 2024 MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Preseason Invitational title on Tuesday at the Lagao Gym in General Santos City.

The Pampanga Giant Lanterns drubbed the Batangas City Tanduay Athletics, 78-59, late Sunday in the crossover semifinal round of the eight-team tournament being held in conjunction with Gensan's Kalinangan Festival.

The South Cotabato Warriors, on the other hand, subdued Quezon City TODA Aksyon, 84-79, in the other semifinal encounter to forge the sudden-death against the Giant Lanterns, the defending MPBL national champions.

Exploiting their height advantage, the Giant Lanterns routed the Athletics off the boards and frolicked inside the paint to  tally their fourth straight win, including a three-game sweep of Group B in the elimination round.

With reigning MVP Justine Baltazar at the helm, Pampanga posted a 55-42 edge in rebounds and poured 38 points against the Athletics' 20 down low.

Baltazar tallied 17 points, 17 rebounds and two assists for Pampanga, which also drew 16 points, five rebounds and three assists from MJ Garcia, and 10 points plus 11 rebounds from Kevin Santos.

Other Giant Lanterns who delivered were Encho Serrano, Rence Alcoriza and Jeff Viernes with nine, eight and seven points, respectively.

Batangas, which trailed by as far as 55-78, got 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists from Cedric Ablaza, 13 points from Kevi Hernandez, and 11 points from RJ Ramirez.

While Pampanga took the easy route, South Cotabato endured a bumpy ride against Quezon City and banked on the hot hands of John Wilson in the fourth quarter to prevail.

Wilson fired 23 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, to lift South Cotabato. He was supported by Christian Fajarito with 14 points and nine rebounds, Jammer Jamito with 10 points and eight rebounds, and Kyle Tolentino with nine points.

Quezon City got 20 points and five rebounds from Rafael Are, 13 points, five rebounds and three steals from Rhinwill Yaming, and 10 points plus five rebounds from Jonas Tibayan.

The tournament takes a break on Monday.

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